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Details emerge from probe of fatal NJ news helicopter crash, reveal what happened on final flight

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New details have emerged from a preliminary federal investigation into a deadly television news helicopter crash in a southern New Jersey forest last month.

The WPVI-TV’s “Chopper 6” was returning from an assignment to report on Christmas lights at the Jersey Shore just after 8 p.m. on Dec. 19 when it crashed in the Wharton State Forest in Washington Township, Burlington County, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its preliminary report. 

The American Eurocopter Corp. AS350B2 helicopter was flying at about 1,000 feet when it drifted right and began to descend, picking up speed for the next couple of minutes before crashing, according to investigators. An examination of the engine revealed there were no issues.

“No anomalies of the engine were discovered that would have precluded normal operation,” the preliminary report said. 

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The report of the wreckage detailed that most of the helicopter was heavily impacted with pieces separated and damaged from a post-impact fire.

The flight was the third of the day for the helicopter and crew, and the helicopter had been refueled before the accident, investigators said.

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The victims were identified by the Philadelphia ABC affiliate as 67-year-old pilot Monroe Smith and 45-year-old photographer Christopher Dougherty, who were both Pennsylvania residents.

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While it remains unclear what caused the deadly crash, investigators have said that a final report could take a year and a half to complete.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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