5 killed in tourist chopper crash near Las Vegas

Last Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 15:50

Los Angeles: A helicopter flying tourists to
see the Hoover Dam crashed in mountains near Las Vegas,
Nevada, killing four passengers and a pilot, a US National
Park Service spokesman said.

The Sundance Helicopters` chopper "crashed in the River
Mountains on the western side of Lake Mead National Recreation
Area," just before 5:00 pm (local time) yesterday, spokesman
Andrew Munoz said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
"The area where the crash occurred is along the normal
route helicopters take," Munoz said, noting that weather
conditions were not unusual. The Federal Aviation
Administration was investigating.

Officials called off recovery efforts around 7:00 pm
because of the danger of accessing the crash site -- about 30
miles from Las Vegas -- in the dark, the Las Vegas Sun
newspaper reported.

A park ranger was dispatched to protect the site, not
accessible by road, and police and crash investigators planned
to return in the morning to recover the victims` remains and
evidence, it said.

The helicopter was a Eurocopter AS350 built in 1989, the
paper cited FAA spokesman Ian Gregor as saying. The aircraft
is commonly used for tourist flights in the area, including to
the nearby Grand Canyon.

The crash was not the first involving Sundance
Helicopters, which advertises itself on its website as "the
most experienced and largest helicopter company in Nevada.

In September 2003 a pilot and six passengers died when
one of the firm`s helicopters crashed in Descent Canyon, about
2.5 kilometres east of Grand Canyon West Airport, in Arizona.

The probable cause of that accident was determined to be
"the pilot`s disregard of safe flying procedures," according
to an online National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
report.

In August 2009, a Sundance helicopter returning from the
Grand Canyon with six passengers was forced to land in the
Lake Mead area after an electrical problem, although no one
was injured, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Sundance Helicopters operates a fleet of 23 choppers
including American Eurocopter A-Star AS350 models and ASB
EC130 aircraft, according to the company website.

All have "forward facing seats for the best views and
most comfortable ride and air conditioning to ensure your
luxury helicopter tour is indeed the most memorable and
amazing part of your vacation," it said.

The company operates a range of tours from its
headquarters near the Las Vegas Strip, ranging from a USD 110
flight over the Nevada gambling mecca to VIP trips to the
Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and elsewhere, costing from USD 611.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 15:50

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