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Former Anheuser-Busch chief executive arrested, ‘too intoxicated to take off’ in helicopter, police say

A Bell 407 helicopter sits in a parking lot of the Bronze Pointe office complex in Swansea, Ill. on Tuesday. August A. Busch IV, the helicopter’s pilot, appeared “too intoxicated to take off,” police said.  (Tim Vizer/Belleville News-Democrat via AP)

Police said they knew something was awry when 911 callers reported a helicopter was “coming in fast” Sunday, barely skirting a dumpster and low-slung buildings at an office park in Swansea, Ill.

Officers launched an investigation, but a few hours later, someone called 911 again, according to a police statement. The helicopter’s pilot was back, they said, and he appeared “too intoxicated to take off.”

Authorities spent the day trying to figure out the reason behind the impromptu, unsafe landing in the Illinois office park. They also were trying to ascertain the mental state of the pilot, whose famous last name graces beer cans across the world: former brewery scion August A. Busch IV.

Busch, who has a commercial pilot’s license, according to the Associated Press, spent the night in jail after authorities say he failed a field sobriety test and acted bizarrely during the encounter with officers. Police are waiting on the results of blood and urine tests. Busch has not been charged with a crime.

Busch, 53, was chief executive of the beer maker from 2006 until 2008, when it was bought by InBev. He is the great-great-grandson of Adolphus Busch, who founded Anheuser-Busch when he emigrated from Germany.

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Police detailed what they said was Busch’s erratic activity in a search warrant application obtained by the AP.

“When a Swansea Officer arrived the helicopter rotors were spinning and the engine was revving up,” the police said in a statement. “The Officer turned on the emergency lights on the squad car and the pilot powered down the engine.”

They asked Busch to take a breathalyzer test. It did not indicate he was drunk, but he was “unable to follow directions and acted erratically,” according to the AP. Busch’s wife told police he had been going through fertility treatments and had stopped taking his anxiety medication.

Authorities found several bottles of prescription drugs in the helicopter, along with three loaded guns.

During the investigation, Busch told officers he feared he was about to have an anxiety attack and started running, saying he needed more oxygen “to cope with the anxiety attack.”

“This is not your normal case that a street police officer handles,” Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson said in the release. “The safety and security of the community, the pilot and passenger were of the utmost concern.”

Police have contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office to determine what, if any, laws Busch might have broken. Busch’s attorney was out of the country and didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Busch family contacted another pilot to remove the helicopter.

Busch has had several high-profile run-ins with the law.

In 1983, when Busch was in college, he was involved in a car crash in Arizona that killed a 22-year-old woman. He was not criminally charged.

In 2010, his girlfriend, Adrienne Martin, 27, died of an accidental drug overdose at his estate in Huntleigh, Mo., according to the AP. Busch paid $1.75 million in 2012 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Prosecutors said Martin’s death was clearly accidental but that Busch was uncooperative with the investigation, talking to police only on the day that Martin died.

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