NBCPhiladelphia.com - Christine Maddela
Investigators are trying to determine if birds caused the crash that killed a helicopter pilot in Mercer County off Route 1 in West Windsor, New Jersey.
West Windsor Township Police say the pilot of a small helicopter was killed in a crash Saturday that occurred in a cornfield near Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road.
Investigators say 65-year-old Michael Scarfia, of Staten Island, NY was traveling from Princeton to Atlantic City when the twin-engine aircraft went down around noon in Mercer County.
Police described the event as a "small helicopter crash" and asked residents to stay away from the area. Investigators say the Scarfia was the only one in the aircraft.
Investigators believe the crash was caused by birds hitting the helicopter. NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Bob Gretz said there was no distress call and that the small helicopter disappeared from radar at noon. Investigators say it's a three-bladed helicopter and that one of the rotor blades has not been accounted for.
A photo posted on Twitter by user @KaceyCarrig just moments after the crash showed a cloud of black smoke rising from what appeared to be the crash site. "Scariest thing ever," Carrig wrote. "Just walked out of a store and saw a helicopter fall out of the sky and crash."
Scarfia was a retired New York City police officer.
"By diverting his failing helicopter into the cornfield and away from crowded shopping malls, he again showed his bravery and dedication to others," according to West Windsor Township Police.
There will be a preliminary report on the www.NTSB.gov website in 5-10 days. A complete investigation into the crash is expected to last from 6-12 months, according to Gretz.