News helicopter crashes in New Jersey woods, killing the pilot and a photographer

A Philadelphia news helicopter crashed in a wooded area of New Jersey on Tuesday night, killing the pilot and a photographer on board, the television station said.

The helicopter was returning to Philadelphia from an assignment at the Jersey Shore when it went down in Washington Township, New Jersey, around 8 p.m., WPVI-TV reported Wednesday.

The pilot was identified as Monroe Smith, 67, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, and the photographer was identified as Christopher Dougherty, 45, of Oreland, Pennsylvania, WPVI reported.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

“They have a long history with our station and have been working as part of the Action News team for years,” the station said, calling it a “devastating day.”

The New Jersey State Park Police received a call just before 11 p.m. Tuesday about a missing helicopter in the area of Wharton State Forest, Chief George Fedorczyk told reporters Wednesday.

A debris field was discovered shortly after midnight “in a remote location” near Mullica River Road in the area of Middle and Quaker Bridge Atsion roads in Washington Township, he said.

Video taken from a WTXF-TV helicopter showed the crash site and the wreckage of the chopper scattered in the woods.

Flight tracking data shows the flight took off just before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday from Northeast Philadelphia Airport, where the chopper is based, and it was last seen at 8:03 p.m. in New Jersey. The single-engine helicopter, which seats seven, had made three trips earlier that day, as well, according to FlightAware data.

A Federal Aviation Administration representative will conduct an initial assessment this morning, and the scene has been secured by New Jersey State Park Police.

The FAA said in a statement just two people were on board the chopper — a 2013 Eurocopter AS350B2, which WPVI leases from U.S. Helicopters Inc. in North Carolina.

The news station said that U.S. Helicopters has been in touch with the victims’ families.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation, noting a preliminary report will be ready within 30 days.

An NTSB investigator is traveling to the scene to examine the aircraft, and the helicopter will be moved to a “secure facility for further evaluation,” the agency said.

“NTSB investigations involve three primary areas: the pilot, the aircraft and the operating environment,” an NTSB spokesperson added.

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