NOXEN, Pa. (AP) — Moments after a pilot told air traffic controllers he was losing altitude, his helicopter crashed in rugged woods in northeastern Pennsylvania, killing five people, including a child.
The pilot contacted a nearby tower at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday saying he would attempt to return to another airfield nearby, Wyoming County coroner Thomas Kukuchka said.
"That's when he went off radar," he said.
Kukuchka said three men, a woman and a child were on board.
"It appears to be a father and son, a father and daughter and the pilot," he said. Their names and ages have not been released.
Kukuchka said his office was trying to reach family members of the victims in Leesburg, Va., Ellicot City, Md., and Kintnersville, Pa.
The flight originated at Tri Cities Airport in Endicott, N.Y., the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday, correcting its own earlier information that it took off from nearby Greater Binghamton Airport.
Records show the helicopter, an R66 Rotorcraft, refueled at Tri Cities at 4:10 p.m. Saturday, said airport manager Gerard Corprew.
Corprew said the helicopter must have come back to the airport at least once more, however, because a father and young son later killed in the crash were still waiting to be picked up when he left at 7 p.m.
The helicopter that crashed is sometimes used for tours, Corprew said, and can seat four in addition to a pilot. It can also be used for training new pilots.
A federal tail number Corprew provided showed the aircraft is owned by Robinson Helicopter Co. of Torrance, Calif., according to an FAA records check. A company spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by email and phone before regular business hours Monday.
State police and FAA personnel were still on the scene Sunday evening, according to Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman.
Kukuchka said there were severe thunderstorms in the area Saturday night, though it was not clear if weather played a role in the crash. The coroner and police said rough weather contributed to the difficulty of the search; the wreckage was located shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation, the FAA said.