News Helicopter Pilot Risks Life To Save 50 With AM-Storm Rdp
Jan. 18, 1988
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ News helicopter pilot Bob Tur says he put thoughts of personal risk aside when he made repeated trips through rain and 50 mph winds to rescue 50 people stranded when part of an inn collapsed in a raging storm.
''There was substantial danger. It was harrowing. We were unable to see things while we were landing,'' said Tur, 27, who just began work for KNX News Radio on Jan. 1.
Tur, in an air-to-ground interview from the station's Aerospatiale 350B helicopter Monday, said he and film cameraman Byron Alperstein were flying over Redondo Beach around 9 p.m. Sunday when they heard a radio call for help.
Almost immediately, they found themselves hovering above a parking lot, plucking guests out of 5 feet of water as breakers up to 25 feet crashed over a breakwater and into King Harbor, where the Portofino Inn is located.
''We realized we were the only helicopter out there. We picked up a crew of firemen and went out to the Portofino Inn. We dropped them off and then began airlifting out 50 people to a (nearby) parking lot. Many were women and children. We did 13 trips,'' said Tur, who also operates a contract television video service.
The entire south end of the three-level inn collapsed in the storm, and the hotel continued to crumble Monday, said Fire Department spokeswoman Carolyn Franck.
Tur said patrons were panicked by the high waves, and ''when they got in the air, they realized what trouble they were really in.''
The former paramedic, who has 2,700 hours of flying time in helicopters during the last three years, said landing amid the howling wind, turbulent water and driven rain was the most harrowing part.
Alperstein, using a two-way radio, got instructions from the ground. ''We dropped down. I would just blindly do what he said. There was no visual. He guided me in,'' Tur said.
However, he said, ''When people are in trouble, you help. That the way I was brought up. You don't think about your personal safety.''
Tur, the father of two children, ages 2 and 4, said there were several groups of children among the evacuees.
''I've never been hugged that hard. Once they were on the ground, they were real happy,'' he said.
The manager of the hotel took a block of rooms at the Redondo Beach Sheraton Hotel so his guests had a place to spend the night, said Sheraton spokesman Dave Cox.
Tur said he also found himself on the lifesaving end of a helicopter journey last year, when he was working for another all-news radio station, KFWB.
He said he swooped down after seeing a light plane crash in Santa Monica. Two of the three people on board had stopped breathing by the time he pulled them from the plane and administered emergency medical treatment, he said.
They had suffered major injuries and were hospitalized for several weeks, but survived, he said. A teen-ager on board the plane was only slightly injured.