Planet Princeton

Flock of Birds Made Contact With Helicopter Shortly Before Crash

The scene of the helicopter crash in West Windsor today. Photo Credit: Seth Callen.

A flock of birds made contact with a small twin-engine helicopter shortly before the helicopter crashed and landed in a field in West Windsor this afternoon, police said.

At 12:19 p.m. today, witnesses watched in horror as the light helicopter, owned by the New York-based Fortress Investment Group, went down and crashed on the American Cyanamid property near the corner of Clarksville Road and Quakerbridge Road.

Police said the pilot was killed. It appeared that there were no other passengers in the helicopter. State police and federal officials were at the scene searching for debris and any to inspect for any possible signs of foul play this afternoon.

“Eyewitnesses said there was no intervention with the helicopter in the sky except for a flock of birds,” Lt. Robert Garofalo  said. “It looks like there was some sort of mechanical issue or explosion on board near the engine.”

Witnesses saw the helicopter coming from the Nassau Park area. It then landed in the filed, which is in an isolated area. “Thankfully it did not occur in a populated area,” Garofalo said. “It would have been a thousand times worse.”

West Windsor resident Jay Bryant said it took about five seconds for the helicopter to crash to the ground.

“The helicopter was flying along at a straight path about 2,000 feet up and started to bank downward,” Bryant said. “It then pitched almost straight down the rotors came flying off.  Two seconds later it crashed and there was a large plume of black smoke.”

“We were in the parking lot at Nassau Park and saw the prop come apart from the helicopter,” wrote  Terry Meade on the West Windsor Police Department Facebook page. “The copter turned over and went straight down. Huge explosion and lots of black smoke. I am still shaking.”

The Federal Aviation Administration did not have and record of the helicopter pilot reporting any problems during the flight. The helicopter was heading from Princeton to Atlantic City, according to a National Transportation Safety Board official. According to the FAA registry records, the helicopter’s certification expired in June.

Emergency workers at the scene of the helicopter crash today. Photo Credit: Seth Callen.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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