A Philadelphia news pilot and photographer were killed after their helicopter tragically crashed in New Jersey on Tuesday night. The crash occurred when Action News Helicopter Chopper 6 went down in a wooded area near Hammonton, New Jersey, in Wharton State Forest, shortly after 8 p.m., according to WPVI reports.
The pilot and photographer were the only occupants of the 7-seat aircraft, and they were returning from an assignment at the Jersey Shore. The cause of the tragic crash remains unclear as of now. The helicopter was last airborne over Wharton State Forest, and its final recorded altitude was just 75 feet above the ground, as reported by NBC Philadelphia.
Those involved in the crash have not been identified, as their families are still in the process of being notified. However, according to ABC affiliate WPVI, they have a 'long history' with the station and had been working there for several years.
Footage of the crash site was captured by another news helicopter, and accessing the area has proven to be extremely challenging due to its remote location deep in the woods.
Authorities were alerted about the missing helicopter around 11 p.m. EST, and New Jersey state police found the wreckage deep in the forest, which spans 122,880 acres, shortly after midnight off Mulica River Road.
Wharton State Forest, New Jersey's largest state forest, is situated in the Pinelands, a 1.1 million-acre ecosystem that constitutes 22 percent of the state. The crash site is located roughly 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia.
Videos from both the ground and the air recorded flames emanating from the wreckage as investigators examined the debris of the aircraft.
New Jersey State Park Police Chief George Fedorczyk said that the investigation was temporarily halted overnight due to low visibility and was scheduled to resume later on Wednesday morning.
Federal investigators are expected to arrive in the state on Wednesday to participate in the inquiry, which will be overseen by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Colleagues of the victims and fellow reporters quickly paid tribute online upon learning about their tragic demise. Action News news anchor Matt O'Donnell expressed condolences, stating, "All of us at 6abc want to express our deepest condolences to their family and friends."
Fox 29 reporter Steve Keeley posted: "Condolences to our colleagues at Channel 6 on loss of their Action News team members in helicopter crash in New Jersey last night."
Reports indicate that 6abc leased the 2013 American Eurocopter AS-350 A-Star helicopter from U.S. Helicopters Inc. in North Carolina. U.S. Helicopters Inc. has reached out to the families of those involved in the crash.
Chopper 6 is used by the news team to access challenging-to-reach areas, aiding in gathering news, including weather updates and aerial shots following incidents on the road.
This incident comes just over a year after meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag at WBTV were killed in a helicopter crash in Charlotte, North Carolina after the helicopter they were traveling in crashed along Interstate 77.