🔴The NTSB said the helicopter was returning after taking video of holiday light displays

🔴The crash left a debris field of 100 yards, according to officials

🔴There are witnesses to the crash who are being interviewed

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP (Gloucester) — The investigation continues into the crash of Chopper 6 in Wharton State Forest with recovery of the helicopter's debris.

National Transportation Safety Board Inspector Todd Gunther said pilot Monroe Smith, 67, and photographer Christopher Dougherty, 45, were returning to Northeast Philadelphia Airport after an assignment to take video of holiday light displays in the Smithville, New Jersey area.

The crash happened around 8 p.m. Tuesday night but was not reported to New Jersey State Park Police until almost 10:55 p.m. and the debris field was located around midnight.

The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350B2 leased from a North Carolina company, was "on course" when it went down in a densely wooded area of the forest, according to Gunther.

"Tree strike images show it was in a descending pattern when it impacted the trees," Gunther said during the briefing.

The Federal Aviation Administration determined the crash created a debris field of approximately 100 yards long.

Path and speed of Chopper 6 before crash 12/19/23
Path and speed of Chopper 6 before crash 12/19/23 (FlightAware.com)

"Man and machine interface"

Gunther said his team of eight specialists will spend the next three days looking at the "man and machine interface" and anything that affected the flight and the helicopter itself.

The helicopter's maintenance history and records of recent flights will also be examined. Their findings will make up a preliminary report to be released in the next 15 to 30 days.

The NTSB spent Wednesday documenting the scene and examining the aircraft. What’s left will be moved to a more secure location, according to the NTSB. The helicopter does not have a black box but the electronics on board will be examined.

Gunther said there were witnesses to the crash but did not know if a distress call was made.

A Fox Philadelphia news helicopter captured video of the crash.

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