Olathe resident and well-known crop-duster Leonard Felix survived when his helicopter crashed near a cornfield off Jay Jay Road late Tuesday morning.
Felix, 74, was listed in fair condition at Montrose Memorial Hospital later in the day.
Felix’s family business, Olathe Spray Service, performs crop-dusting and has repeatedly over the years assisted in search and rescue efforts, as well as other public service work. Tuesday, Felix got that same kind of help in return, starting with Jay Jay Road property owners.
Mike Holden and his brother Drew were working in their yard just before the crash. Holden spotted Felix flying over the nearby corn.
“He was close enough I could see him. I waved, but he was concentrating. Maybe five seconds after he flew by us, we heard this crash. We saw smoke in the air. My brother took off running,” Holden said.
Holden’s wife, Irene, asked what the noise was.
“I said Felix went down; call 911,” Holden said.
As Irene went for the phone, Holden got on a side-by-side and drove down the dirt road between his yard and cornfield, collecting his brother along the way.
The corn was so dense, though, that they missed the crash site at first; even standing on the vehicle to peer over the corn did not help them locate the wreckage.
As the brothers turned their vehicle around to search again and rounded a curve, they got a surprise: Felix, walking out of the corn, holding an injured hand.
“He seemed to be in good spirits, maybe in semi-shock,” said Holden, who added he thought Felix had a broken sternum and facial lacerations.
“I was visualizing having to go in and dig somebody out of the wreckage, but we didn’t have to. We’re just happy we were home and able to help out,” he said.
“The cornfield, if we weren’t here, nobody would know it unless they flew overtop it. On driving by, you can’t see it.”
The Holdens put Felix in their vehicle and drove back toward their house.
“They were the good Samaritans of the day,” Montrose County Undersheriff George Jackson said. “I’m glad he’s OK.”
Irene’s 911 call brought the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office within minutes, Holden said.
“And then it was like every few minutes, more and more people showed up. We probably had 60 people here at one point,” he said.
The Montrose Fire Protection District and its ambulance service quickly made the scene. Felix appeared to be conscious and alert as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance.
It was not immediately clear what caused the chopper to come down.
Jackson said it did not appear as though Felix encountered any obstructions, such as lines or trees. The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified of the crash and is responding to take on the investigation.
Montrose Daily Press Managing Editor Justin Tubbs contributed to this report.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.