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WPVI news helicopter crashes in New Jersey, two killed

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(NEW YORK) — An investigation is underway after a local news helicopter operated by Philadelphia ABC station WPVI-TV crashed in New Jersey, killing both people on board.

The pilot, 67-year-old Monroe Smith, and the photographer, 45-year-old Christopher Dougherty, were on board Chopper 6 when it crashed in a wooded area of Washington Township Tuesday night, WPVI reported.

The pilot and photographer were returning from an assignment at the Jersey Shore at the time of the crash, WPVI said. The station said they had been members of the news team for years.

The helicopter took off from northeast Philadelphia and flew to report on Christmas light activity, and then was returning back to Philadelphia when the crash occurred, said Todd Gunther, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

It was a clear, cold night and preliminary air traffic control data showed the helicopter was on course at the time of the accident, Gunther said.

The New Jersey State Park Service received reports that the helicopter was missing at 10:50 p.m., said George Fedorczyk, chief of the New Jersey State Park Police. At 12:02 a.m., an officer found a debris field, he said.

The debris field is approximately 100 yards long, according to Gunther.

Witnesses who saw the chopper Tuesday night are being interviewed by investigators, Gunther said.

The NTSB’s preliminary report is expected in 10 to 15 days, Gunther said. Eighteen months later, the NTSB will release a factual report, and one to two months after that, the safety board will release a statement on probable cause, Gunther said.

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