Monday, August 24, 2009

Vegas To Reno Chopper crash worse than first reported


When first reported by, the racing Nunley family said, "oh everything is ok, no injuries". Decide for yourself.

Baja racing, off-road racing family in Vegas To Reno chopper crash details, Tulare Union High School Principal Michelle Nunley and two others escaped serious injury Friday when a helicopter crashed Friday between Reno, Nev., and Las Vegas.

The helicopter carrying Nunley, the pilot and an emergency medical technician was acting as an "escort" aircraft during an off-road race involving Nunley's husband, Craig Nunley. All three occupants were hospitalized at Las Vegas University Medical Center, where their prognosis is said to be good.

"Michelle is doing great. She is doing better than anybody expected," Craig Nunley said Sunday. "Fortunately, somebody was looking out for them. They're all OK. We're lucky, very blessed."

Nunley suffered injuries to two vertebrae as well as a broken thumb and toe, her husband said. She does have feeling in her legs and toes, he said.

The vertebrae will heal on their own, Craig Nunley said, though Michelle Nunley will be fitted for a back brace.

"She's in pain," he said.

Michelle Nunley planned to take a stroll at the hospital Sunday evening, her husband said.

The helicopter pilot, a friend of Craig Nunley, suffered a broken leg. The EMT injured three vertebrae and suffered a lacerated liver.

"They had no major injuries," Craig Nunley said. "It's unbelievable."

The three were in a Robinson R-44 helicopter, Federal Aviation Administration Spokesman Ian Gregor said. Craig Nunley said the helicopter often serves as an escort during off-road races like last week's Reno-to-Las Vegas event.

Craig Nunley said plans called for his wife to ride with him on Saturday.

The helicopter crashed for unknown reasons in a ravine 25 miles west of Tonopah, Nev., Gregor said.

The helicopter was badly damaged.

Craig Nunley said the craft lost power before the crash, bouncing once and coming to rest among rocks.

The crash happened just 45 minutes after Michelle Nunley had boarded the helicopter, he said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating, Gregor said.

News of the crash spread quickly, with Tulare Union students posting messages on their Twitter pages. Craig Nunley said he has received several phone calls from community members inquiring about the crash and expressing good wishes.

"To be honest, the response doesn't surprise me," he said. "Everybody loves Michelle. I could see how people would call and say they're worried."

Baja Racing