Festival update: Helicopter display grounded after unexpected technical difficulty

By Max Fontaine | Beacon hard-news follow-up reporter

Purchase of a town helicopter is already paying dividends.

Bass Lake’s Town Helicopter sustained minor damage in a crash Saturday during a dusk-finale at Pre-Mid-Summer Festival Week Days.

The helicopter, adorned with alternately-flashing Christmas lights, plunged into the lake shortly after takeoff, about 45 seconds into the show, after running out of fuel.

The pilot, Bass Lake Police Authority Chief Tug McNabb, was mostly uninjured, but visibly shaken following the incident.

“I was flying along, then — nothing,” said McNabb, drenched in lake water, with a young perch protruding from his vest pocket.

The fly-over was an 11th-hour measure to replace a scheduled fireworks display, after festival organizers realized the town had almost no explosives in the “celebration vault.”

Reaction to Saturday’s mishap was mixed. Some called it “Christmas (Disaster) in July,” while others assumed it was a planned portion of the show.

“So spectacular … I was thrilled!” said Missie Genrod, 15. “That’s the best firework show we’ve had yet.”

A resident nearby, Dwayne Clarkstead, also appeared impressed.

“My favorite part was when the helicopter plunged into the lake,” Clarkson said. “What a finale!”

The helicopter suffered damage to its landing skids, and was airlifted to a regional aircraft garage for treatment. It is expected to be “fully operational again” following routine maintenance, said Mayor-by-default Delores Denominator.

Estimated cost for repair is estimated at an estimated $9,000, Denominator said, payable in part through the Bass Lake fireworks fund.

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