Investigators comb the shore of King Lake, east of Jordan Road near Arlington, following a helicopter crash Tuesday that sent two men to the hospital with serious injuries. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Investigators comb the shore of King Lake, east of Jordan Road near Arlington, following a helicopter crash Tuesday that sent two men to the hospital with serious injuries. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Man rows to the rescue after helicopter slams into lake

He used a dinghy to help two seriously injured men get to shore at remote King Lake near Arlington.

ARLINGTON — A helicopter crashed into a lake south of Arlington on Tuesday, sending two men to the hospital.

The pilot was in critical condition, said spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

A passenger had serious injuries but was expected to survive.

Neighbors living near King Lake, a remote body of water in the woods east of Jordan Road north of Granite Falls, heard a strange noise around 1 p.m. as the helicopter took off. It was airborne for only about a minute, O’Keefe said.

Jeffrey Abrams saw the helicopter fly over the trees and across the water.

The private pilot regularly flies in the area, he said. Sometimes he will slow down and hover over the lake. This time, he was moving fast.

The helicopter flew unusually low. Abrams saw the skids hit the water, and the entire aircraft dove in.

“It was a significantly loud bang, almost like an explosion,” he said.

The injured passenger was able to swim away from the wreckage. However, the pilot was unconscious in the middle of the lake, Abrams said.

Abrams’ wife, Lillie, called 911 while he snagged life jackets and oars from their shed. He climbed into a dinghy and rowed out to the injured pilot. At that point, the helicopter was completely submerged.

Abrams was able to help both men back to shore.

Tuesday wasn’t the first time the couple has called for help after someone found themselves in trouble on the lake. Last year, a man in his 50s drowned after his canoe overturned.

The Department of Ecology sent crews to evaluate any fuel spills from Tuesday’s crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the wreck.

Photographer Ian Terry contributed to this story.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

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