MINNEAPOLIS — A helicopter crash in Lino Lakes early Thursday evening led to multiple fatalities, according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s office.

The emergency call came in around 5:28 p.m. Thursday, reporting the crash near Sunset Avenue and Main Street.

According to the sheriff: “Witness statements describe a helicopter that was traveling in a northeast direction suddenly experiencing distress. Some describe hearing a loud pop or explosion and seeing the helicopter’s rotors stop spinning and the helicopter falling from the sky and breaking apart. The amount of debris and the area in which it was scattered suggest the aircraft was breaking apart as it fell from the sky.

The pilot and passenger are confirmed dead. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the pilot was a 48-year-old man from Minneapolis and his passenger was a 47-year-old woman from Blaine, Minn.

The sheriff’s office said the 1982 Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopter was in flight earlier on Thursday with no known mechanical issues. It’s believed the second, fatal flight originated from the Anoka County Airport in Blaine.

Aircraft mechanic Kurt Ericson told Fox 9 he witnessed the pilot struggling with the doomed helicopter Thursday afternoon before he took off from the Anoka County Airport.

“He spent about 20 minutes out at runway 9 trying to get it into a hover,” Ericson said. “It appeared it was having difficulties. He wasn’t maintaining a nice and level hover.”

Based on what he saw, Ericson said he never would have left the ground.

“I wouldn’t have flown it yesterday,” he said. “I’m surprised he took off. It had too many problems. It wasn’t even sounding right. I wouldn’t have flown it.”

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation in the cause of the crash.

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