NOXEN TWP. – Authorities on Sunday said five people were killed in a helicopter crash in a rugged, mountainous area sometime overnight Saturday in Wyoming County.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Robinson 66 aircraft was flying to Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Lehighton from the Tri Cities Airport, Endicott, N.Y., when it lost radar and communication contact Saturday night.
The wreckage was located at 1:50 p.m. Sunday off an access road to the Mehoopany Wind Farm. The names of the crash victims were not available.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation. The FAA also is investigating.
Emergency response vehicles and personnel traveled an access road on the wind farm to get to the crash site.
They initially staged in Mehoopany, said Bobby Zampetti, a pilot from Tunkhannock, who followed them to the scene. He said he saw Wyoming County Coroner Thomas Kukuchka, Pennsylvana State Police and Civil Air Patrol at the Mehoopany volunteer fire station.
Along with media Zampetti was kept several hundred feet from the vehicles.
“We’re standing on top of South Mountain,” Zampetti said. Sky Haven Airport where he flies out of is approximately nine miles to the north, he said, adding the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is approximately 20 nautical miles to the northeast.
Pilots who fly in the area are in contact with the FAA tower at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he said.
“But when weather becomes a factor, and I’m thinking about 9:30 , 10 o’clock last night when they said this may have occurred, it was very nasty and visibilities were quite poor,” Zampetti said. “Why the helicopter got into this area, no idea. But any time weather becomes a factor, you’re messing with disaster.”
The federal agencies will do a thorough investigation, Zampetti said.
“They going to look at the aircraft. They’re going to look at mechanical,” he said.
“They’re going to look at fuel, which when you’re in the bad weather or so, they’re also going to take a look at the pilot’s qualifications.They look at everything. It’s so in depth, not just to solve what happened in this accident, but to prevent future accidents like this from happening,” he said.
Zampetti said he was told by Civil Air Patrol that the wreckage was located by tracking an emergency locator beacon.
The electronic beacon sent out a signal that search crews on the ground honed in on, he explained. The electronic locator beacon is designed so that is triggered by impact, he said.
“It’s a safety device for locating downed aircraft,” he said.
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