Update: No distress call from crashed helicopter

Courtesy of CBS Los Angeles/KCAL News

Federal investigators announced this week that a helicopter that crashed into a home in Newport Beach on Jan. 30 did not send a distress call before the crash.

Sources say the R44 helicopter was headed to Catalina Island and had just taken off from John Wayne Airport when it suddenly lost power and crashed into a gated community.

Joshua Cawthra, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the pilot did not send a distress call before the helicopter slammed into the neighborhood.

Three people aboard the craft were killed.

They have been identified as Joseph Tena, 60, of Newport Beach, Kim Watzman, 45, of Santa Monica, and Brian Reichelt, 56, of Hollywood, Florida.

Tena, who was a beloved Newport Beach resident, was a licensed pilot and was thought to be flying the aircraft, although the company that operated the craft has yet to confirm it. Mark Robinson, CEO of Revolution, said simply the company was “heartbroken” at the tragic news.

Watzman and Reichelt were employed by the Standard Hotels, the company said in a statement.

“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our friends,” said Amar Lalvani, CEO of Standard International. “Our focus now is on supporting their loves ones and our team during this difficult time.”

Both were executives at different Florida locations at the time of the crash.

Authorities say the helicopter was operated by Revolution Aviation, which operates from John Wayne Airport.

Revolution Aviation reportedly offers helicopter and airplane classes, the use of aircraft for photography and video production, as well as sightseeing flights.

A spokesman for Spitzer Helicopters, the company that owned the aircraft, said it had been updated just a week before and thought to be very well maintained.

Cawthra said the cause of the crash has not been determined and an investigation could take months to complete. The helicopter was on a personal flight when it crashed, he said.


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