Four killed as helicopter crashes on highway

Author: By David Dishneau, Associated Press

The chopper was engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene minutes after
receiving a call at 10:30 p.m. Thursday (0230 GMT Friday), Washington County
emergency services director Kevin Lewis said. No vehicles on the highway
were hit when the helicopter smashed into the eastbound lanes of Interstate
70.

Visibility was somewhat limited by fog at the time of the crash, but it wasn’t
clear if weather played a role, Lewis said. Storms had passed through the
area earlier in the night.

Lewis said a witness saw the helicopter flying low when a bright arc of
electricity flashed in the air, apparently caused by the chopper striking a
power line. It wasn’t clear if it was already on its way down when it hit
the lines.

“The witness basically saw a large arc at which point the helicopter crashed
onto the interstate,” Lewis said. Before seeing the arc, the witness thought
the helicopter might have been trying to land along the roadway.

Interstate lanes in both directions remained closed early Friday at the crash
site near Smithsburg, which is about 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of
Hagerstown. Lewis, who was among the first emergency responders at the
scene, said there were downed power lines in the westbound lanes.

Wreckage could be seen just off the shoulder of the three eastbound lanes. A
blade jutted out from twisted metal. The wreckage is almost directly beneath
a set of power lines.

Federal Aviation Administration records list the owner of the four-seat
Robinson R44 helicopter as Marsan Aviation Inc., of Wilmington, Delaware. No
phone number for the company could be found in the state.

Maryland State police, who are in charge of the investigation, declined to
release the victims’ names until family members were notified. Investigators
from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA were also at the
scene west of the Washington County-Frederick County line, on the western
slope of a ridge known as South Mountain.

Maryland State police spokesman Greg Shipley said the bodies were being taken
to the state medical examiner in Baltimore. Any information about the owner
of the aircraft and the cause of the crash will come from the National
Transportation Safety Board, which will conduct a briefing Friday morning at
the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

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