NOXEN, Pa. (AP) Moments after a pilot told air traffic controllers he was losing altitude, his helicopter crashed in a rugged, wooded area of northeastern Pennsylvania, killing five people including a child.
Wyoming County coroner Thomas Kukuchka said the pilot contacted a nearby tower at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday saying he would attempt to return to another airfield nearby.
"That's when he went off radar," he said Sunday.
The names and ages of those on board have not been released, but Kukuchka said three men, a woman and a child were on board.
"It appears to be a father and son, a father and daughter and the pilot," he said.
Kukuchka said his office was trying to reach family members of the deceased in Leesburg, Va., Ellicott City, Md. and Kintnersville, Pa. He had yet to release the victims' names by Monday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter took off from Greater Binghamton Airport in New York, but officials there said it had actually originated at a smaller airfield nearby, Tri Cities Airport in Endicott.
The FAA said the helicopter was bound for Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Lehighton (Mahoning Township).
Gerard Corprew, manager of the Tri Cities Airport, said the conflicting reports were likely spurred by records that show the helicopter an R66 Rotorcraft stopped to refuel at his airport at 4:10 p.m. Saturday.
Corprew said Monday that the helicopter must have come back to the airport at least once more, however, because a father and young son later killed in the crash were still waiting to be picked up when he left at 7 p.m.
The helicopter that crashed is sometimes used for tours, Corprew said, and can seat four in addition to a pilot. It can also be used for training new pilots.
A federal tail number Corprew provided showed the aircraft is owned by Robinson Helicopter Co. of Torrance, Calif., according to an FAA records check.
A company spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by email and phone before regular business hours Monday.
State police and FAA personnel were still on the scene Sunday evening, according to Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman.
Kukuchka said there were severe thunderstorms in the area Saturday night, although it was not clear if weather played a role in the crash. The coroner and police said rough weather contributed to the difficulty of the search; the wreckage was located shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation, the FAA said.