NOXEN, Pa. (AP) — Moments after a helicopter pilot told air traffic controllers he was losing altitude, the chopper crashed in rugged woods, killing all five people on board, including a child, authorities said.
The pilot contacted a nearby tower at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday saying he would try to return to a nearby airfield, Wyoming County coroner Thomas Kukuchka said Sunday.
"That's when he went off radar," Kukuchka said.
Early indications are the helicopter was caught in a thunderstorm, said Loretta Conley, a spokeswoman for the company that owns it. There were severe thunderstorms in the area, in northeastern Pennsylvania, on Saturday night, Kukuchka said.
The Wyoming County coroner's office on Monday identified the victims as 58-year-old Bernard Michael Kelly, of Ellicott City, Md.; his 27-year-old daughter, Leanna Mee Kelly, of Savage, Md.; 29-year-old Carl Robert Woodland, of Lovettsville, Va.; his 3-year-old son, Noah Robert McKain Woodland, of Leesburg, Va.; and 30-year-old David Ernest Jenny Jr., of Towson, Md. It didn't say who was piloting the helicopter.
All five victims died of multiple traumatic injuries when the helicopter crashed near Noxen, a picturesque town of about 1,000 residents.
The flight originated at Tri Cities Airport in Endicott, N.Y., the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday, correcting its 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, airport manager Gerard Corprew said.
Corprew said the helicopter must have gone 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 type of helicopter that crashed is sometimes used for tours, Corprew said, and can seat four plus a pilot. It also can be used for training new pilots.
A tail number Corprew provided showed the aircraft is owned by Robinson Helicopter Co., of Torrance, Calif., according to an FAA records check.
Conley said the company "is saddened by the loss of lives." She said the helicopter had been sold to a Robinson Helicopter dealer in Hampton Roads, Va.
The company sent investigators to assist the federal probe, which is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board. An NTSB official in charge of the scene did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.
The coroner and police said rough weather contributed to the difficulty of the search. The wreckage was located shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.