Low-Flying Helicopter Worried Residents, HCSO Identifies It as Theirs

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5TB-ybSfzs]

UPDATE 9/11: Lt. George Cavinta said that the information yesterday was incorrect. The helicopter is actually contracted out to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department and is flying reconnaissance missions for them not CAMP as was originally reported. However, today Cavinta confirmed CAMP is working in the Benbow area of Southern Humboldt.

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Original post:

Lt. George Cavinta of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force today identified a blue and silver helicopter flying reconnaissance in various rural areas as being contracted out to CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting.) The helicopter, he said, is flying out of Eel River Conservation Camp 31, a place he identified as an “old school CAMP location.” Cavinta was responding to requests for information from the Lost Coast Outpost. This last week, several residents have contacted LoCO as well as other news agencies complaining of what they said was an extremely low flying helicopter hovering over their homes and properties.

Several community members have sent in videos and photos. We’ve included two here though neither of them show particularly low flying. One resident explained this by saying that many growers first reaction is to dive into the bushes and they only begin to photograph as the helicopter is leaving the vicinity. (The video above does begin with a nice shot of the vegetation.)

Residents in the Palo Verde area complained of the helicopter flying their area on Monday, September 8. One longtime community member said that “at some points it was below 500 feet [the legally established minimum.]”

Others described much lower flights. One landowner stated, “The chopper flew as low as 75 feet, at something like 10 different locations. Me and my crew could see it from multiple locations from my piece, and after calling and texting everyone on the hill, I confirmed that what I could see from my place was actually happening. The chopper pilot actually waved to my neighbor… He flew low enough to take off his sunglasses and eyeball another of my neighbors.”

Other areas where multiple residents have complained are Kneeland (the flights in question occurred yesterday) and Benbow (the flights occurred today.)

Lt. Cavinta said that if a pilot is flying below 500 feet residents should file complaints with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration.)  He added that he believes that because “we don’t live in an area where helicopters fly over a lot” people may think that the aircraft was much closer than it actually was.

The marijuana growing community is concerned about what these low flights might portend. One farmer wrote, “The entire community is bracing for what is obviously going to be a massive bust that will ruin the lives of perhaps as many as twenty or more families that live here in the area, families with kids and dogs and chickens, families that have been supporting their community for years and years.”

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