A helicopter pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in the ocean just off Key West on Monday night.
The hard water landing happened immediately after takeoff from the Key West International Airport, 3491 S. Roosevelt Blvd., according to Monroe County spokeswoman Kristen Livengood.
The pilot and two passengers were treated for minor injuries at Lower Keys Medical Center. No serious injuries were reported.
Air Adventures Helicopter Tours, which offers sightseeing tours — including trips at sunset — out of the Key West airport, spun out of control in the air at about 7:45 p.m. and landed in the shallow water near Smathers Beach, according to video posted on Facebook.
“We don’t know what caused it but the pilot did everything perfectly,” said Peter Closi, president of the helicopter tour company. ‘It really was the best-case scenario.”
Closi said the pilot reported feeling a vibration after takeoff and he turned the copter around to return to the airport and lost control “of what felt normal.”
The tail rotor remained in the water on Tuesday morning. In video and photos of the incident, the helicopter’s tail had clearly fallen off.
“The FAA didn’t want us to touch it,” Closi said.
The pilot deployed the emergency pop-up floats, which are hidden in the skids - the landing gear - and landed on the water. The floats prevent the helicopter from sinking.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
The landing happened about 30 yards off South Roosevelt Boulevard across the street from the airport.
Monroe County Fire Rescue was the first to respond to the landing and helped the three people out of the copter.
“There was no effect or delays to takeoff and landings at the airport related to the accident,” Livengood said.