Four passengers and a pilot were killed yesterday during a tour over Nevada's Hoover Dam when the helicopter crashed into a mountain range that borders Lake Mead.
The crash occurred shortly before 5 p.m. local time, reports BNO News Channel 6. Reportedly emergency personnel on the scene said there were no survivors from the collision.
Sundance Helicopters, the company which operates the tour, confirmed the crash, saying in a statement, "Emergency personnel on the scene reported that there were no survivors. Names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of the next of kin."
The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350 manufactured in 1989, went down about 12 miles east of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas; the tour begins at the airport and goes to Hoover Dam and back. The copter can hold up to six passengers and is commonly used for air tours.
National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said that witnesses heard the crash and saw smoke visible from four miles away.
Being the crash occurred at sunset last night, the search was initiated the day after the crash. Today National Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating and going to the crash site to recover the bodies, however the Associated Press reported there will be complications in surveying the wreckage and recovering the bodies of the crash victims.
The crash occurred at a location that is not accessible by road and can only be reached by either helicopter or four-wheel-drive vehicles. Investigators expect to be on the scene for three to five days. Last night a park ranger drove to the crash site to protect the site until today when authorities could reach the scene.
Mark Rosekind, of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a news briefing, "It's going to be very difficult."
Currently the names of the victims are still being withheld, but according to the AP report, family members identified the pilot as Landon Nield, 31, of Las Vegas.
At this time investigators do not know what caused the crash, weather conditions were reportedly clear near Lake Mead on Wednesday evening and winds were about 5 mph.
Helicopter tours have been widely visible in the media recently. Digital Journal reported last month on a fatal helicopter tour crash in Hawaii. October's tour crash into New York's Hudson River, which also resulted in fatalities, raised questions on the safety of these sightseeing tours. After this crash occurred, local Fox affiliate in Las Vegas reported Sundance had a crash in 2003.
Fox reported in regards to the Lake Mead crash, "A spokesperson for the NTSB said a preliminary report would likely be available within 10 days but their final report would not be issued for at least nine months."