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Sat, May 24, 2008

Tour Helo Down In CA: Three Lost, Three Injured

Witnesses On Santa Catalina Island Report Apparent Power Loss

A Saturday morning helicopter accident was reported from Southern California's Santa Catalina Island, 26 miles west of the Los Angeles coastline.

A Eurocopter AS350 operated by private tour company Island Express went down at approximately 0925 local time on the west end of the island near the town of Two Harbors. Three people aboard the helicopter were killed and three others are listed in critical condition after being airlifted to mainland hospitals. Their identities have not been released.

The Associated Press reports the helicopter went down near the Banning House lodge, which overlooks Isthmus Cove, a popular boating spot. A witness at the lodge reported that the chopper's engine appeared to quit, and impacted about 200 to 300 yards inland in grass. It was unclear whether the helicopter was taking anyone to the lodge.

The crash caused a small fire that was quickly put out according to authorities on the scene.

Federal Aviation Association spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the Eurocopter departed Long Beach at 0830 local to pick up the passengers on Catalina Island and was scheduled to return there. The crash occurred less than an hour after the helicopter picked up passengers on the island.

Rainy weather was reported on the island at the time. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

According to the company website for Island Express, the company provides charters and tours to the island and other Southern California destinations along with movie and television work and servicing of off-shore oil platforms.

AP reports in 1999 an Island Express sightseeing helicopter made a hard landing on the island, slightly injuring six tourists.



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