Crews to remove Nev. helicopter wreckage by air

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2011 2:53 PM
Crews to remove Nev. helicopter wreckage by air

Friends in India mourned the deaths of a honeymooning couple who were among five people killed in a sightseeing helicopter crash near Las Vegas, while U.S. crash investigators worked Monday to airlift large pieces of charred wreckage from the remote canyon where the aircraft went down.

A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson in Washington, D.C., said pieces of the Aerospatiale AS-350BS would be taken to Phoenix for study by teams from the NTSB and the French accident investigation agency BEA. NTSB officials said BEA is involved because the aircraft was built in France.

Co-workers in India tell The Associated Press that Lovish Bhanot, 28, and Anupama Bhola, 26, both from suburban Gurgaon, India, were honeymooning in the U.S. following their large Nov. 6 Hindu wedding in the New Delhi area.

The others killed in the twilight crash last Wednesday of the aircraft operated by Sundance Helicopters of Las Vegas were a Las Vegas pilot married six months ago and a Kansas couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Bhanot was managing director of Lyca Investment Ltd., a family-run real estate company with his father and grandfather in Gurgaon. Bhola worked as a flight attendant for an unspecified airline.

The couple knew each other for about three years before getting married, friends said. They were midway through a three-week U.S. trip that included a visit to Los Angeles before arriving in Las Vegas about a week before the crash. They also had planned to visit New York before returning to India.

Two of Bhanot's cousins went to the U.S. after the crash, and family members in India said funeral plans were incomplete.

The other couple _ Delwin and Tamara Chapman, both 49 _ was from Utica, Kan.

Delwin Chapman ran a construction company and served on the Utica City Council. Tamara Chapman had multiple sclerosis and recently closed her hairstyling shop in the western Kansas city of about 160 people, friends and family said.

Pilot Landon Nield, 31, had flown for roughly seven years. He was married in a Las Vegas church in June.

Radar logs and maintenance records show the helicopter made a sudden climb and sharp turns moments before a steep plunge from an altitude of about 3,500 feet, NTSB Board Member Mark Rosekind said.

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The wreckage was found near the bottom of a 150-foot deep canyon about 4 miles west of the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River, and 12 miles east of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

The aircraft underwent routine maintenance the day before the crash, including replacement of the engine and mechanical actuators in the tail and main rotor, Rosekind said.

But Rosekind said investigators could not draw immediate conclusions about the crash from the erratic flight pattern.

Authorities said the crash came about midway through a 40-minute flight over Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip. It was the fourth flight for the helicopter following the maintenance work, including one test flight and two previous tour flights.

The NTSB is scheduled to release a preliminary report on the crash by Dec. 20. A final report with safety recommendations could take up to a year.


Associated Press correspondent Katy Daigle contributed to this report from New Delhi, India.