The following story is fictional and any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.
Land Surveyor named Indiana Jones
One day I was sitting in my office in Downtown Houston around 5:00 pm in the afternoon in 2001 when the phone rang. My secretary had already left and I was not anxious to answer it. I had a comfortable practice running three field crews and another Professional Land Surveyor in the office. I was daydreaming about maybe selling the business for a million dollars and just getting a grass hut on the beach in Mexico and live out my days painting, writing and catching fish. I had just become married to my second wife and was ready to head home.
I picked up the phone and it was some Lawyers out of Dallas. They had a client who had experienced an event 1 hour north of Mexico City which may result in them being sued. They had sent a forensic team there but needed a Professional Land Surveyor to correlate the data they were gathering together in a coherent manner so an average juror would understand it.
I was yawning and telling them I would send them a proposal in the morning when they interrupted me and told me they needed a Professional Land Surveyor in Mexico that night, they would fill me in if I agreed to do it. They were excited when I said that it was possible we could come to an agreement. After some brief negotiations and a few fax exchanges of paperwork I packed up one of the guns, a couple of prisms and a data collector, swung by the house, grabbed a change of clothes and headed to the airport.
The jet got to Mexico City just after midnight and they unloaded my stuff into a taxi and the taxi driver and I headed up north through these winding roads into the hills. It was almost 2am when I finally got to the resort/hotel where the rest of the team was sleeping.
I got a few hours sleep and then unpacked the equipment. I met the team around 7am who were eating breakfast in the courtyard of this very exclusive resort. The team consisted of the lead Attorney and his two legal assistants, an aviation expert, a fire investigator expert, a Civil Engineer and a couple of "expediters" who knew this particular area of Mexico very well.
The lead Attorney laid out the plan for everyone for the day. Apparently the local military dictator for the region had purchased a brand new 10 seater helicopter. He was going on a flight to film a region up in the hills that he wanted to develop into an industrial complex of some sort. He and 10 of his cohorts had flown into the ground a few miles away from where we were assembled, killing everyone aboard and the client had been denied access to the crash site by the Mexican police.
Our mission was to access the crash site, gather as much data as we could on what happened without the local authorities knowing about it and then get out of Mexico without getting into trouble with the police. They had identified several areas including the crash site that needed to be examined by us over the last few days before the full team had arrived. We would head out towards the areas we needed to cover as soon as the locals showed up that the expediters had hired. The locals were to help them bribe the people living near where the crash had occurred so that they would not contact the authorities and tell them we were there.
Just about then a car with 4 or 5 locals showed up and pulled in behind a couple of trucks and a car parked next to the courtyard that apparently was our transport. I loaded up my equipment, everyone piled in and we set out toward the site.
We drove way up into the hills and pulled into what seemed to be a small residential slum development nestled up in a mountain there. It consisted of a collection of perhaps 30 homes or so sitting on the edge of this bluff. Most of the homes were of the 2 story masonry variety with the typical courtyards surrounded by high masonry walls. The streets that wound through this subdivision were of dusty cobblestone. It was still early enough that there were not many people stirring and when we stopped the lead attorney got out of his car and came over to our vehicle and told us to sit tight.
All the locals and the two expediters poured out of their vehicles and gathered around the lead attorney's car. He opened the trunk and inside was football sized packages of money. The group fanned out into the neighborhood and after about 20 minutes or so one of the lawyers came over and told the rest of us to start unpacking our gear.
The Civil Engineer was going to handle the prisms for me because he already knew a lot about the site. He was not sure how we were going to do the evidence locations however because of the tangle of buildings, walls and other obstructions in the area. There was a particularly large building on the edge of the development at the bluff that overlooked the entire subdivision and the slopes rising up to the site from the foot of the mountain we were on. I could see for miles from there so I ask if I could set up my gun on the roof of that building.
Several locals went to the house with football size packages of money and in no time the building's residents vanished. I lugged my gear up to the top roof of the building and set up.
From this vantage point I started to see evidence of the scars this crash had caused to the neighborhood. The helicopter had struck a number of objects on its way down and I could make out a black spot in the earth roughly in the middle of this development near the intersection of a couple of these courtyard walls that were surrounding these dusty buildings. Everything seemed to be made out of concrete or masonry, even the utility poles which looked like they were holding up spider webs with the tangle of wires that were clinging to them.
The Engineer started locating things of interest and I sketched it and collected the data as he went. After a little bit the lead attorney managed to climb up to where I was perched and ask me to keep an eye on the main road and tell him if I saw any police or Federalies coming toward the little development we were in. This made me kind of nervous but everything seemed to go very smoothly and I saw no people what so ever other than the team I was with. It is remarkable what football size packages of money can do in Mexico.
Anyhoo after about 5 hours or so we were closing in on finishing but there was a site of interest some mile or more from where I was set up that needed to be located down in the valley below. It was some kind of antenna on top of a building and the Engineer took off in a car with a couple of locals and all the prisms I had. It would take every prism I had brought with me to measure such a long distance.
I could just make him out clinging to the top of this building far down in this valley below as I got the measurement when I noticed a couple of open bed transport trucks winding their way up the main road from the valley below. I turned my gun on them and with some feelings of panic realized the trucks were loaded with soldiers.
I relayed this info to the lead attorney who immediately told me to hurry up and pack up my equipment and get ready to leave. I did not need a second reminder and by the time I got to the truck with my equipment the rest of the team that was left were already ready to go.
We sped down the mountain and passed the two military trucks going the other direction loaded with 20 or so Federalies who were headed to the site we were just at. I was so relieved I nearly pissed in my pants when we picked up the Engineer in his car and started heading back to the resort. I made it to the airport by late in the evening and was back in Houston by 1am that night.
After compiling all of the known information about the crash a pretty gruesome picture emerged.
The pilot of the helicopter only had 1 hour of flight time in this type of large machine. All of his previous experience had been with a 2 seater. He had overloaded the craft with 10 passengers and a bunch of film equipment and was carrying a full load of fuel.
Apparently he had been flying near top speed and swooped down toward this slope on the side of the mountain intending to fly along it but the machine was too heavy and continued heading toward the side of the mountain. He pulled himself up almost perpendicular to the ground in an effort to slow down but his tail rotor caught up an aluminum TV antenna that was on top of one of the taller buildings and this caused him to completely lose control of the machine.
He managed to fly in an attitude almost perpendicular to the ground for well over a mile before slamming into the top of a building on this bluff in the residential neighborhood we had been at. He hit the edge of the top of the building and lost his entire rear rotor boom which simply fell to the ground after sliding down the side of the building he had hit. The tail rotor flew off and stuck in the side of another two story building a block away. The main body of the helicopter slammed down on the roof of the building he hit and it slid on its skids right along the entire length of the roof and then got airborne again. It hit a 12 foot tall masonry arch in the courtyard and went right through it taking the top off. It sailed across the road and hit a concrete telephone pole at about 10 feet high. It broke it right in half and sent it end over end sailing into the air like a toothpick. It hit another masonry wall at the height of about 5 feet and went right through it. It sailed across another courtyard and hit the intersection of some walls where 4 separate courtyards met at about ground level. It did not make it through this time and burst into flames. To add insult to injury the concrete telephone pole he had clipped came down on top of the burning wreckage.
I vomited right in the conference room when I viewed video tape of the crash cleanup later in Dallas. It looked just like a clam bake at a river campfire. It was hard to believe that the coals I saw were once a helicopter or that the charred hunks of meat they were removing from this burning pit were once human beings.
People are always kind of surprised when I tell them I am a Land Surveyor. Most people have no idea what a Land Surveyor is and they think "Mmmmm....did he say landscaper or....what a loser?" And the fact is I thought the same thing before I came to the conclusion I was born to be one.