Crowds gathered along the Fox River in Oshkosh Saturday afternoon as news broke that a helicopter had crashed into the river.
But for one person standing along the shoreline, the news hit closer to home than anyone.
“It’s just sort of a weird feeling,” photographer Pete Boden told Local 5, “knowing that I just got off it five minutes ago and then it crashed.”
Pete had been hired to take aerial photographs of the boats participating in the Lake Winnebago Four Horsemen Poker Run, and had been flying in the helicopter with pilot Jonathan Bahr until he decided to take a lunch break.
“We were deciding when to get fuel and when not to get fuel, so because of where we were at I [said] why don’t you go ahead and drop me off, you can go get fuel because they were at the lunch stop,” Pete said. “So he dropped me off, [I] grabbed my stuff, proceeded to walk away from the helicopter, and about five minutes later, somebody came up and said the helicopter crashed.”
Pete recalls that over the next several minutes, the group learned more information about what had happened. He did not yet realize that he himself had had a close call.
“My phone started ringing from my publisher and other people wondering if I was okay,” he said, “and then they heard my voice, they were relieved I wasn’t dead and wasn’t on the helicopter.”
Pete took to Facebook to let everyone know that he was okay, but that the pilot had passed away. He says that he plans to continue to work from helicopters.
“Aviation in general can be dangerous, just the same as driving cars,” he said. “You accept that it’s part of the job and you hope you’re not one of the statistics.”
Pete says that type of uncertainty is a part of life, “[I’m] just glad to be here and tomorrow’s not promised for anyone, so, it just wasn’t my time.”