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6ABC helicopter crash: Federal investigation underway in New Jersey

NTSB investigation into 6abc helicopter crash underway
NTSB investigation into 6ABC helicopter crash underway 02:37

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in New Jersey Thursday to begin their investigation into a fatal crash involving Philadelphia news station 6ABC's helicopter.

The pilot, identified by New Jersey State Park Police as 67-year-old Monroe Smith of Glenside, Pennsylvania, and the photographer, 45-year-old Christopher Dougherty of Oreland, Pennsylvania, were killed in the accident.

RELATED: Pilot, photographer killed in 6ABC helicopter crash in South Jersey identified

The Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopter, contracted through U.S. Helicopters Inc. and working for 6ABC WPVI, was flying back to Philadelphia from the Jersey Shore when it crashed in the Wharton State Forest in Washington Township, Burlington County, Tuesday night.

The scene of the 6ABC crash.  NTSB

Todd Gunther, an investigator with the NTSB, said at a press conference Thursday morning that preliminary data shows the aircraft was on course when the crash happened, but was in a descending pattern when the helicopter impacted the trees.

"We'll be looking at both what we call the man-machine-environmental interface, and we'll be looking at anything that may have either affected the accident flight or may have been causal," Gunther said.

NTSB speaks on deadly 6ABC helicopter crash in New Jersey by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

A team of eight specialists will be on scene for about three days, Gunther said, and will look at a myriad of factors that might've contributed to the crash, including the flight control systems, weather conditions and maintenance history. The helicopter will be moved to a "secure location" to be examined, and after completing their on-site work a preliminary report will be released within 10-15 days.

"Right now the challenge that we're facing, it's relatively level land, however, there are a lot of trees in the area," Gunther said. "And the temperature conditions, as you know it's been pretty cold."

The debris field from the crash spans about 100 yards.

6ABC Philadelphia's Action News helicopter 6ABC Philadelphia

A final report and statement of probable cause is expected in another 18-20 months.

Gunther said he's unaware if a distress call was made before the crash, but confirmed that witnesses who saw the accident are being interviewed by investigators.

CBS Philadelphia extends our condolences to our fellow journalists and staff at 6ABC.

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