Three Dead in Helicopter Crash in Newport Beach

NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) - The crash of a sightseeing and pilot-training helicopter into a home in Newport Beach, killing three people and injuring two others, was under investigation today by federal officials.

The four-seat Robinson 44 helicopter crashed about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday on Shearwater Place near Egret Court.

Four of the victims were in the helicopter and one was on the ground. Three were pronounced dead at the scene. It was unclear if all three were in the helicopter. The two injured victims were taken to hospitals, according to Newport Beach Fire Chief Chip Duncan.

Witnesses described a plume of smoke as the helicopter plunged to the ground. It appeared to clip the tile roof of one home, then skid along the ground through the residential intersection before smashing into a side wall of another home. The helicopter pushed in a master bedroom wall, and its tail section ended up in a side yard, the Orange County Register reported.

A woman who lives nearby told ABC7 it ``sounded like a train coming through.'' She got to the scene and said she ``saw one man out, I'm not sure if he fell out, and there was body parts ...''

She said she put her hand on the wreckage and prayed for the victims.

The woman said the residents of the house that was struck were at home, but they were in another part of the residence and were unharmed.

The helicopter is owned by Spitzer Helicopter LLC of Canyon Lake in Riverside County. The company's Eric Spitzer said he leased the 2003-model helicopter to John Wayne Airport-based Revolution Aviation.

According to the company's website, Revolution Aviation has been operating since the 1960s, offering pilot-training and sightseeing trips. The website boasts a 100 percent safety record.

Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the helicopter had taken off from John Wayne Airport, about a mile from the crash site.

The crash will be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

``Although we anticipate that the NTSB's investigatory work at the crash scene will take several days to compete, residents of the neighborhood

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