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A Rapid City man was arrested early Friday morning after allegedly driving drunk, crashing his car into a helicopter and leaving the scene. 

Rapid City Police Department spokesman Brendyn Medina said a member of the helicopter's flight crew saw a man, identified as Carl Johnson, 53, drive a silver car onto a Rapid City Regional Hospital helicopter pad at 353 Fairmont Boulevard.

According to a news release from RCPD, the witness reported seeing the car revving its engine near the pad, then driving onto the pad and hitting the tail end of the parked helicopter. The car then turned around and went eastbound through the hospital parking lot.

Medina said authorities believe no one was in the helicopter when it was hit by the car. No one was hurt. 

Soon after the hit-and-run, dispatch received a complaint in the area of 3660 Sturgis Road of a silver car driving on deflated tires. 

Police found the car driving south on Sturgis Road, and noted damage to the car's roof and windshield consistent with the damage to the helicopter. When officers stopped the car, they noted a "strong smell of alcohol" and conducted a driving under the influence investigation. Police also found an open alcohol container in the car. 

The witness to the crash identified Johnson as the driver of the vehicle that hit the helicopter. 

Johnson was arrested on charges of DUI (second), open container in a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, and operating a vehicle on private property without permission. 

He was taken to the Pennington County Jail.

The helicopter is owned by Air Methods, which specializes in air medical transportation and manages several programs across the country, including Rapid City-based Black Hills Life Flight. 

A spokeswoman for Air Methods confirmed the incident to the Journal on Friday afternoon via email. She didn't immediately respond to questions on how extensively the helicopter was damaged, but said the company deployed a backup aircraft to "continue to provide lifesaving care to the community and the Sturgis Rally ... " 

Air Methods says it has three air medical helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft to cover the region. 

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Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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