Associated Press and Idahostatesman.com report:
PHOENIX — A helicopter crash just north of Phoenix killed at least three people on Sunday afternoon, including a child, and officials couldn't rule out the possibility of more victims.
Residents in the area known as Cave Creek heard noises and saw parts flying off the 6-seat helicopter before it crashed and burst into flames at about 3 p.m. MST.
"I saw the helicopter flying in the air and that stuff that goes round, up, the rotors were coming apart and then I said, 'OK something wrong is gonna happen,'" witness Nicoleta Nork told KTVK-TV. "And I just saw it rolling, rolling and boom, then big smoke and yeah, terrible."
Authorities have specifically identified three victims, said Deputy Lindsey Smith, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. But since the Eurocopter EC135 can hold six people, officials are looking into whether there were additional victims.
The area is a mix of rolling hills, dry desert washes and lots of houses. The chopper came down in a wash between two homes, Smith said.
"It's a pretty horrific crash," she said. "It's just obliterated."
The debris scattered over hundreds of feet, and deputies were contacting nearby residents to make sure none were hurt and that all the debris was collected for use by investigators. No injuries on the ground were immediately reported.
The helicopter was registered to Services Group of America in Scottsdale, Ariz., a large privately held foodservice and real estate firm. A company spokesman said he didn't immediately have any information about the crash.
Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration were headed to the crash scene, spokesman Ian Gregor said, and a National Transportation Safety Board investigator was expected to arrive on Monday morning.
There are typically three (3) types of causes for helicopter crashes including, (1) Pilot error; (2) Mechanical malfunction; and/or (3) Electrical malfunction.
I. Operational error.
Most helicopter crashes have been attributable to human/pilot error in the operation of a helicopter. Human error in flight planning, actual pilot control of the vehicle, training and/or improper maintentance. Following any air crash, investigators from the National Transporation Safety Board (NTSB) conduct an investigation regarding the cause of the crash. In looking for operational error, the investigators consider whether there was failure in the operation of the aircraft in accordance with the aircraft’s operational limitations; operation of the the aircraft in unsafe environmental conditions; failure in maintaining a proper flight plan; improper maintenance of the aircraft; improper training of flight and maintenance personnel; faulty manuals, training guides, checklists and operational procedures; and faulty oversight, auditing and review procedures.
II. Mechanical Malfunction.
Sometimes a component of the aircraft fails to function as designed and/or intended. This can happen anywhere along the component’s life due to improper design; inadequate testing; faulty manufacture of the component; inadequate quality control; inadequate operational monitoring; improper installation and/or use; poor maintenance; inadequate lubrication or cooling; and improper installation.
III. Electrical Malfunction
Sometimes a helicopter crashes due to electrical source malfunction or failure, i.e., an electrical source stops working or one of its components has a malfunction. Investigators will consider whether the helicopter crash occurred as a reslt of an electrical source malfunctions; an electrical short occurs; an electrical component malfunction; inadequate design; inadequate testing; inadequate quality control and/or inadequate operational monitoring.
Any and all air crashes are preventable. Typically they are a result of either negligence in the operation or maintenance of the aircraft or due to improper design and/or manufacturer of components of the helicopter.
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