Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are expected to arrive in Monroe County as efforts continue today to investigate a helicopter crash that happened Tuesday night in the Mount Pocono area.
Dense fog is apparently the initial cause of the crash, which claimed the lives of the pilot and one of two passengers. A second passenger survived and is listed in critical condition.
Initial details of the accident were reported on the front page of Wednesday's TIMES NEWS, although the names of the victims were not immediately known since authorities began their investigative work in the early morning hours yesterday.
Police have identified the pilot as William Ellsworth, 52, of Califon, N.J. He died, as did Tighe Sullivan, 51, of Darien, Conn.
Passenger Stephen Barral, 50, of Bernardsville, N.J., was also aboard the aircraft. He is being treated for serious injuries at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township.
Chief Harry W. Lewis of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police said his department was notified at 10 p.m. Tuesday of a "possible missing helicopter" in the area of the Mount Pocono Airport. He said an initial search of the area proved negative results, but then the department received assistance from the U.S. Air Force via the Monroe County Control Center of a possible location of the aircraft, derived from GPS tracking technology.
Officials said the FAA was able to obtain GPS data from Barral's cell phone, at which time the Air Force utilized its technology to pinpoint the crash site.
Lewis said his department officers then re-entered the woods from Interstate 380 at mile marker 5.7 and after a brief search, they found the wreckage of the helicopter in a heavily-wooded area about 100 yards in from Interstate 380 in Coolbaugh Township.
He said officers discovered the two deceased men and Barral, and with the help of other medical first responders, rescued the survivor and transported him to the Pocono Medical Center, East Stroudsburg. After he received preliminary treatment, he was transported to LVH due to the severity of his injuries
The two deceased victims, who were in the front seats of the aircraft, were pronounced dead at the scene. Autopsies have been ordered by the office of Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen.
Meanwhile, authorities said the men were traveling from a golf outing in the Elmira, N.Y., area. Officials said they had dropped off a fourth occupant of the helicopter in Wilkes-Barre and the helicopter was traveling toward New York City when the pilot encounter the heavy fog. Lewis said the aircraft "was attempting to escape from the weather and land at the Mount Pocono Airport. Sadly, the aircraft crashed approximately one mile from Mount Pocono."
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark DeLisi said the heavy fog reduced the pilot's visibility to between a quarter mile and a half mile.
Officials said Sullivan was founder of WCAS Fraser Sullivan Investment Management in New York City while Barral works at W.H. Mell Associates, a Summit, N.J., municipal bond brokerage.
The helicopter, a Bell 407, is a lightweight helicopter that is often used as a corporate aircraft. It is powered by a single turbine engine and has seven seats, including a pilot and passengers.
Lewis said FAA investigators were at the scene Wednesday and are awaiting assistance from NTSB investigators who are coming from Northern Virginia. He said the investigation has been turned over to the two federal agencies.