6 killed in Mojave Desert helicopter crash


Federal authorities are investigating the cause of a helicopter crash Friday night in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border, killing all six people on board.

According to National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham, the Airbus EC130 helicopter, which was flying from Palm Springs, California to Boulder City, Nevada, outside Las Vegas, had two pilots and four passengers on board.

The plane, operated by Orbic Air, a California-based charter company, burst into flames on impact, Graham said, citing witness reports. It left Palm Springs around 8:45 p.m. Saturday and crashed near Interstate 15 just after 10 p.m., he added.

Witnesses said it was a mix of rain and winter when the crash happened, Graham noted.

NTSB investigators were gathering evidence Saturday night in Halloran Springs, California, Graham said at a news conference.

Authorities have not yet publicly identified those killed.

Graham said investigators will return to the crash site on Sunday to continue documenting the site, including using a drone to create an aerial map of the wreckage. He asked that witnesses to the crash contact the NTSB and provide any photos or video of the incident.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said Saturday that “the identities of the deceased will be released once they have been positively identified and next of kin have been notified.”

A preliminary investigation report will be released in the coming weeks, but according to Graham, the full investigation could take up to two years before a final report is released.

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