Marion helicopter crashes in lake while fighting brush fire; pilot OK

Last Updated: Thursday, May 04, 2017, 11:39 AM EDT

A Marion County Sheriff's Office helicopter pilot is OK after his helicopter malfunctioned and crashed into a lake while fighting a brush fire on Tuesday evening.

  • Sgt. John Rawls in stable condition after helicopter crash
  • Helicopter experience a malfunction

At about 6:30 p.m., Sgt. John Rawls was the only one in the Sheriff's Office's Air One helicopter when it was dumping water on a Fort McCoy fire with a bucket attached to the aircraft.

While he was trying to get more water, the helicopter had a malfunction and went down in a lake, Marion Sheriff Billy Woods said.

Rawls, who has been with the Sheriff's Office since 1998 and is an Army helicopter pilot veteran, was able to swim to shore and call for help. The Florida Forest Service and Marion County Fire Rescue assisted deputies by using heavy equipment to make a path to reach Rawls, according to Woods.

“Our pilot is OK and, though he does have some injuries, he should be fine. The Marion County Fire Rescue and the Florida Forest Service did an outstanding job in helping us get to our pilot out there in order to get him to the hospital, and I want to thank each of them for the services that they provided to us," Woods stated in a news release.

The fire that Rawls was fighting was near Highway 315 and 212th Street Road in Fort McCoy.