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Philadelphia's 6ABC helicopter crashes in South Jersey; victims ID'd

NTSB arrives at site of deadly 6ABC helicopter crash in New Jersey
NTSB arrives at site of deadly 6ABC helicopter crash in New Jersey 02:51

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- Federal investigators arrived in New Jersey Thursday after a local Philadelphia news helicopter crashed in the Wharton State Forest Tuesday night, killing the pilot and photographer onboard.

New Jersey State Park Police found the wreckage in a wooded area off Mullica River Road in Washington Township, Burlington County, just after midnight after getting reports that a helicopter had gone missing in the area.

The chopper was contracted through U.S. Helicopters Inc. and worked for Philadelphia's 6ABC WPVI.

NTSB speaks on deadly 6ABC helicopter crash in New Jersey 07:25

According to 6ABC, the helicopter went down after 8 p.m. The pilot and photographer were contracted with U.S. Helicopters and part of the 6ABC family, the station said. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Wednesday they were the only two people onboard the Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopter.

Park police identified the pilot as 67-year-old Monroe Smith of Glenside, Pennsylvania, and the photographer as 45-year-old Christopher Dougherty of Oreland, Pennsylvania. 

6ABC said the chopper crashed as the crew made its way back from an assignment at the Jersey Shore.

6ABC's Action News helicopter 6ABC Philadelphia

Pete Kane, a retired photojournalist, said the last time he ran into his former colleague and friend, Smith, was about three months ago. He called Smith a trailblazer and said he was one of the first African American helicopter pilots in the Philadelphia market.

"Everyone that knew him loved him because he was very soft-spoken, he was a listener, he enjoyed telling you what he did in the service, and he enjoyed doing what he did," Kane said.

Kane not only worked with Smith, but they also graduated from Philadelphia's Ben Franklin High School together in the same class. Last year, the two attended their class' 50th year reunion.

"We're competitors at TV stations, but in reality, we're all friends. We all look out for each other and when one goes down, we all go down, you know? And that's what hurts," Kane said. 

Harry Kanes (left) and Monroe Smith (right) Harry Kane

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy shared his sympathies with the 6ABC team Wednesday morning, writing on social media, "Our deepest condolences go out to the Action News family following last night's helicopter crash in Wharton State Forest."

During a press conference, New Jersey State Park Police Chief George Fedorczyk said because of the remote location of the crash and low visibility overnight, the crash investigation was suspended until later in the morning.

Fedorczyk said the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into what led to the crash. NTSB crew arrived Thursday and FAA representatives arrived Wednesday.

Federal investigators traveling to New Jersey after fatal local news helicopter crash by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

"Our thoughts are with the pilots, their families and the media community," Fedorczyk said.

As part of their investigation, the NTSB said investigators will look at flight track data, maintenance records, weather conditions, flight experience and witnesses statements, among other records. The NTSB said the helicopter will eventually be moved to a secure location where it will be evaluated. While a preliminary report is expected within 30 days, the agency said a final report is expected between 12-24 months.

The investigation is expected to remain active throughout the day, and people are being asked to stay clear of the areas around Quaker Bridge Road, Mullica River Road and Middle Road.

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

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