Three people were killed and five others injured Tuesday when an Orange County-based sightseeing and pilot-training helicopter crashed in a Newport Beach home.
The four-seat Robinson 44 helicopter crashed about 1:45 p.m. on Shearwater Place near Bristol Street and Bayview Place. Witnesses described a plume of smoke as the helicopter plunged to the ground.
The helicopter appeared to clip the tile roof of one home then skid along the ground through the residential intersection before smashing into a side wall of another home.
A woman who lives nearby said it "sounded like a train coming through."
She got to the scene and said she "saw one man out, I'm not sure if he fell out, and there was body parts ..."
Neighbors rushed to the scene of the crash to see what the source of the noise was and to help victims.
"I ran down just as fast as I can and two younger boys were already there pulling out the pilot," neighbor Patty Faubion said.
She said she put her hand on the wreckage and prayed for the victims. The woman said the residents of the house that was struck were at home, but they were luckily in another part of the residence and were unharmed. Newport Beach Fire Chief Chip Duncan said three people died in the crash, and two other people were taken to hospitals for treatment.
Newport Beach police said there were four people aboard the helicopter, and the fifth person was a bystander on the ground. It was unclear if all three people who died were aboard the helicopter.
The impact of the crash was so severe that debris stretched across several blocks, where a man painting a hosue was struck.
"A piece of the helicopter hit him, but it didn't look too serious," neighbor Roger Johnson said.
The home's owners and two dogs were not harmed in the crash.
The helicopter is owned by Spitzer Helicopter LLC of Canyon Lake in Riverside County. The company's Eric Spitzer said he leased the 2003-model helicopter to John Wayne Airport-based Revolution Aviation.
According to the company's website, Revolution Aviation has been operating since the 1960s, offering pilot-training and sightseeing trips. The website boasts a 100 percent safety record.
Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the helicopter had taken off from John Wayne Airport, about a mile from the crash site.
The crash will be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"Although we anticipate that the NTSB's investigatory work at the crash scene will take several days to compete, residents of the neighborhood are able to access their homes,'' according to a police statement.