A 19-year-old man was operating a tractor in a cherry orchard in Washington State last week when, seemingly out of nowhere, a helicopter fell on him. Within minutes, he was able to free himself from the wreckage and save the pilot.
“I saw it last second,” Logan Schneider said in an interview on Wednesday during his lunch break at the orchard. “I saw the trees start shaking like the leaves were going crazy.”
The crash might have rattled Mr. Schneider, but it hasn’t deterred him from some day pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot himself.
As Mr. Schneider explained, it had recently rained at the orchard where he was working in Wenatchee, Wash., about 140 miles east of Seattle. Before the crash, he said, he was “blowing cherries,” a process that involves carrying a large fan on a tractor to prevent water damage on the fruits.
Mr. Schneider said he was wearing noise-canceling headphones that day, but he suddenly heard what sounded like two thumps.
“I looked up and that’s when I saw it,” he recalled. “As soon as I saw it coming down on me I was like, ‘Oh no, this is definitely gonna hit me.’”
Mr. Schneider said he immediately felt a sharp pain in his back. He was able to free himself, he said, by pushing off the steering wheel of the tractor, and slipping out.
“That’s when I heard the pilot screaming for help,” he said.
The pilot, Mr. Schneider said, was upside down, unable to unbuckle his seatbelt, surrounded by fire that had started to engulf the helicopter.
“I had to go in through the fire, reach my arms through and unclip him,” Mr. Schneider said.
The pilot, Cori Johnson, was the only person in the helicopter, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
When firefighters arrived, they found helicopter wreckage in the orchard, along with the tractor, which were both on fire, the Orondo Firefighters Association said. The firefighters discovered that as the helicopter fell from the sky it struck high voltage power lines, which had to be de-energized before they could put out the fire, the fire association said.
It was unclear how much damage the orchard sustained.
The helicopter was a Hiller UH-12E, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which said on Wednesday that the crash was under investigation.
More than 12,000 civil helicopters fly about 3 million hours annually, according to the F.A.A. In 2021, there were 114 accidents, or about 3.9 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, the agency said.
David Schneider, Logan’s father, said that he was at work, about 20 minutes away, when he received a call from a younger son saying a helicopter had crashed in the area. When he arrived at the crash site, Mr. Schneider said he found his son in an ambulance, lying next to the pilot.
“I’m still in awe,” David Schneider said in an interview on Wednesday. “I still get goose bumps thinking of what could have happened and trying not to dwell on what could have happened.”
The younger Mr. Schneider and the pilot were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Mr. Schneider said he had small second-degree burns on his arms, and muscle damage in his back, which now requires him to wear a back brace.
“My arms were just raw to the touch,” Mr. Schneider said.
The extent of Mr. Johnson’s injuries were unclear on Wednesday. He could not be immediately reached. Mr. Schneider said he had not gotten to speak to Mr. Johnson since the crash.
At the hospital, where Mr. Schneider said he was treated for about five hours, several medical workers told him that he was lucky, and they encouraged him to buy a lottery ticket. Mr. Schneider had never played the lottery before, but he said that he bought a lotto ticket and won $2.
Mr. Schneider, who recently graduated high school, said he had planned to attend Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Wash., and enroll in the school’s aviation program to learn to fly commercial airlines. He said the crash last week did not change his mind about his future career plans.
“I still want to be a pilot,” he said.
Kitty Bennett contributed research.