Investigators have released new details regarding the ABC6 helicopter crash earlier this week in New Jersey that claimed the lives of 67-year-old pilot Monroe Smith and 45-year-old photographer Christopher Dougherty.
The helicopter, identified as WPVI’s Chopper 6, was returning to its base at Northeast Philadelphia Airport when it crashed into Wharton State Forest in Washington Township, southern New Jersey.
Todd Gunther of the National Transportation Safety Board says that the helicopter struck the forest’s trees at a very high speed, resulting in a catastrophic breakup followed by a post-crash fire – stressing that there is no evidence to suggest there was a midflight fire or explosion.
The investigation found that the helicopter’s main rotor and tail rotors were turning when they collided with trees, and the aircraft had power and a functional transmission at the time of the crash. Additionally, there was no emergency warning broadcast by the pilot.
The ill-fated chopper had taken two previous flights that days before the tragic crash occurred.
Investigators are still searching for any clues as to what might have contributed to or triggered the crash, which happened on a clear, cold night.
The wreckage from the accident is being transported to a secure off-site facility, where it will be reassembled to aid in the ongoing investigation into the root cause. This includes the nose, tail, and both sides of the helicopter.
However, it could take up to two years before the National Transportation Safety Board releases its findings regarding the circumstances that led to the accident.