RIVERDALE -- An AirMed helicopter responding to a rollover crash on Interstate 84 damaged its tail rotor and suffered a hard landing, blocking westbound traffic for about three hours Monday afternoon.
None of the three people on the helicopter was injured in the landing, but the damage was such that the copter could not be flown from the scene.
A Ford pickup was headed west on I-84 about 1 p.m. when the driver fell asleep and the truck drifted off the road.
It came back onto the road, but drifted off again, then crashed and rolled three times before hitting a grove of trees on the east side of the road near Mile Marker 83, said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. John Mitchell.
"He's conscious and breathing, but in a lot of pain," Mitchell said of the driver Monday afternoon. "He's lucky to be alive."
Mitchell said it was difficult to extricate the man from the pickup because of the way he hit the trees and injuries he suffered to his lower legs.
Matthew Arden Hatfield, a Standard-Examiner photojournalist at the scene, said he was standing about 150 feet away from the spot where the helicopter first tried to land on the road.
"The helicopter landed, and I stopped taking pictures. I heard the engine rev up again and turned around to see what he was doing. It looked like he started to take off again, and just as he lifted the nose off the ground, his tail rotor hit a metal post along the roadway," he said.
"As soon as it hit the post, I could literally see the rear rotor stop moving."
Hatfield ran toward a police car about 10 feet away, watching the helicopter over his shoulder. He said the helicopter continued to climb briefly to a height of about 20 feet, then slammed back down onto the pavement.
"It happened fast, before I got to the police car. Once it hit the ground, I realized it was safe enough to start taking pictures again."
The landing gear was damaged and the tail rotor shredded.
The driver of the pickup was taken to Ogden Regional Medical Center by ambulance. His name was not released, and information on his medical condition was not available Monday night.
Crews moved the helicopter off the road until today, when a flatbed truck should take it back for repairs, said UHP Sgt. Ellis Alexander.
AirMed declined to comment. The interstate reopened to traffic shortly after 4 p.m.
Standard-Examiner reporter Michael McFall contributed to this article.