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1 Dead In Helicopter Crash In Mercer County

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. (CBS) — Authorities say one person was killed when a helicopter crashed in Mercer County, New Jersey on Saturday.

The crash occurred just after noon in West Windsor, but it was not immediately clear what caused the accident. The victim, 65-year-old Michael Scarfia, is believed to have been the only person aboard the helicopter which can carry up to five people.

Several witnesses reported hearing grinding noises and possible explosions, and some spotted pieces coming off of the Eurocopter AS355 Twinstar shortly before it went down in a cornfield near Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road. Authorities say the helicopter burst into flames upon impact, but no one on the ground was injured.

"They just saw parts coming off the helicopter," says Lieutenant Robert Garofolo, a member of the West Windsor Township Police Department. "And the helicopter came down on an angle and landed in the field behind us."

According to NTSB investigators, there were two separate debris fields about 100 yards apart. One is the tail boom of the helicopter; a second is the rotor assembly. Investigators say they only found two blades of a three-blade rotor. The final blade was missing.

Investigators say Scarfia, flying from Princeton to Atlantic City, made no distress call before the crash. They say there was a heavy odor of gasoline at the scene, indicating that the helicopter did not run out of gas.

A preliminary report from investigators was expected to be ready in about a week. The final report, which contains probable cause of the accident, could take six months or more.

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