By Calvin Palmer
A British-born man was one of four people killed when a helicopter crashed on Interstate 70, in Maryland, and burst into flames.
Niall R.Y. Booth, a native of Dorking, in Surrey, England, had moved to U.S. in the 1990s with his American wife. He lived in Colorado Spring, Colo., before moving to Maryland.
Investigators still do not know what caused the four-seat Robinson R44 helicopter to crash around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, said Katy Higgins, a National Transportation Safety Board member.
The helicopter was returning from a charity event where it had been used to give rides to raise money for disadvantaged children.
Maryland State Police identified the four victims, all from Maryland, as Jeffrey D. Nordaas, 24, of Columbia; George H. Tutor Jr, 39, of Westminster; Niall R. Y. Booth, 43, and Kim R. Felix, 48, both of New Market.
The pilot, who has not been identified, and two of the people on board were employees of Advanced Helicopter Concepts, of Frederick, Maryland.
The fourth was a friend who had flown with them to Hagerstown for a meeting of the Advanced Helicopter Youth Foundation charity.
The pilot, who had about 630 hours of flight experience, waited two hours after Thursday’s event to return to Frederick because of the weather, said Higgins.
Visibility was somewhat limited by fog at the time of the crash, but it is unclear if weather played a role, said Washington County emergency services director Kevin Lewis.
Witnesses reported seeing the craft flying low when it hit power lines over the interstate, then saw sparks fly before it went down. There was no flight plan and no contact with air traffic controllers because the tower was closed.
Gary Smith, an instructor for Advanced Helicopter Concepts, said this morning that the company had suffered a “huge loss.”
“We thank everyone for their support and understanding during this difficult time,” he said, declining to release further details.
Troopers temporarily shut down lanes in both directions at the crash site near Smithsburg, which is about 10 miles east of Hagerstown. The highway reopened early today.
Federal Aviation Administration records list the owner of the helicopter as Marsan Aviation Inc., of Wilmington, Delaware.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]