Lone survivor recalls chopper crash six months ago

Lone survivor recalls chopper crash six months ago

SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - It was six months ago today that a U.S. Forest Service helicopter went down in the DeSoto National Forest, killing two men and critically injuring the lone survivor.

The accident killed 55-year-old Steve Cobb, of Wiggins, along with 40-year-old Brandon Ricks, of Oklahoma.

Brendan Mullen, 43, is the "miracle survivor," who despite critical injuries, somehow managed to free himself from the wreckage and walk some 300 yards to the nearest road.

Mullen believes there's a reason for his survival.

The Forest Service crew was on a prescribed burn that fateful day. Team members on the ground and in the air proceeded with plans to burn off a section of Desoto National Forest near Airey Tower Road.

That assignment quickly took a tragic turn from prescribed burn to aviation incident.

"The helicopter did go down. We do have two confirmed fatalities," said Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan at the scene that day.

Jay Boykin was team leader on the prescribed burn assignment. One month after the crash, he talked with WLOX News about what happened.

"It was all very sudden. Just within an instant or two. I did hear the crash," Boykin recalled.

Boykin said it was a miracle that Mullen somehow survived when that chopper went down in thick woods.

"He was able to communicate. At the time, he was just concerned about the rest of the flight crew," said Boykin, who is a Fire District Management Officer with the Forest Service.

Mullen recently shared memories of what happened in a video for the Wildland Firefighters Foundation.

"When I hit the ground, it was extremely abrupt. Though we actually landed on the skids, it separated the skids from the helicopter," Mullen recalled. "I knew I had a lot of internal injuries as well as to my face and head. I couldn't run through those flames, so I basically held my breath, got through that initial wall of flames and walked, holding my hands over my face, 300 yards to get into the road."

The sole survivor is convinced he's alive today for some greater purpose.

"I think I was spared for a reason. I think I'm here today to do things that are going to be beneficial to others," said Mullen.

Mullen has undergone numerous surgeries since the crash. His injuries included a broken neck and severe burns.

He has filed a federal lawsuit against the manufacturers of the helicopter and its engine. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused the accident.

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