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Wednesday September 6, 2000

Taiwan Copter Spins Out of Control

TAIPEI, Taiwan ( AP ) - A police helicopter spun out of control during a mock river rescue and crashed into the water Wednesday, sending debris flying as its blades slammed into the riverbed. The co-pilot was in a coma and four others were injured.

Engine failure might have caused the French-made helicopter to plunge into the river in the southern county of Tainan, said Wang Hsiang-chou of the local air police. Wang did not provide details about the aircraft or the pilots' flying experience.

The helicopter was lowering a policeman when the aircraft tilted and briefly dropped into the water. When the chopper took off again, it began spinning in place about 10 yards over the river. Seconds later, the aircraft plunged sideways into the water and fragments of its blades flew off in different directions.

Co-pilot Lin Rong-ta, 33, was in a coma, and the four other crew members suffered surface wounds, but were in stable condition, doctors said.

Tainan is about 125 miles south of the capital, Taipei.

Premier Tang Fei, Taiwan's No. 3 ranking leader, said the accident highlighted Taiwan's need to improve its rescue operations. The government was criticized after rescue workers failed to save four workers from a flash flood in July.

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