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Three dead after helicopter crashes into Newport Beach home: 'You just knew something horrible had happened'

Three dead after helicopter crashes into Newport Beach home.

A helicopter crashed into a Newport Beach home Tuesday, killing three people and injuring two others, authorities said.

The four-seat R44 copter crashed "under unknown circumstances" about 1:45 p.m. after taking off from John Wayne Airport, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

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Four people onboard and one pedestrian were involved in the crash, although it was unclear who among them was killed, said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

The two people who were injured were taken to a hospital and trauma center for treatment.

Paddi Faubion was inside her home in the Bayview Terrace neighborhood when she heard helicopter propellers slowing down, as if an aircraft was losing power.

She ran to her balcony and watched a helicopter clip the roof of a neighbor's home before slamming into the side of another on Shearwater Place, sending up a plume of dust and dirt.

"It was like a train hitting a wall," she said. "You just knew something horrible had happened."

It was a grisly, chaotic scene of twisted metal, something that longtime neighbors said they had never before experienced in their quiet community.

Edward Fernandez witnessed a helicopter that crashed into a Newport Beach home Tuesday, killing three people and injuring two others, authorities said.

Several neighbors rushed to the aircraft to help. Two neighbors pulled out the pilot, who looked extremely pale, his mouth bloodied, she said. Gasoline spilled from the helicopter onto the street.

A woman was in the kitchen when the helicopter crashed, damaging a bedroom, Faubion said.

"She was inconsolable," Faubion said. "I just put my hands on the side of the helicopter and prayed."

Eric Spitzer, of Spitzer Helicopter Leasing, said he leased the R44 to Revolution Aviation, a flight school and touring company at John Wayne Airport.

"I'm shocked because it just came out of getting updated avionics" a week ago, Spitzer said, though he didn't know exactly what that entailed. "I paid the bill."

Spitzer said that with three passengers on board, the pilot, a friend of his who owns the aviation company, was likely conducting a tour.

Revolution Aviation had been leasing the aircraft — one of 85 helicopters in Spitzer's fleet — since April 2016 and flew it regularly, he said.

"Revolution is spectacular," Spitzer said. "The minute just a little thing goes wrong, they're on it."

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Newport Beach Mayor Marshall "Duffy" Duffield, who represents the City Council district that includes Bayview Terrace, said his son, a commercial helicopter pilot, told him about the crash. Both were in Duffield's office afterward listening intently to radio traffic.

"It's quite a tight-knit fraternity," Duffield said of copter pilots.

Revolution Aviation did not return a call for comment.

FAA records show that the helicopter involved in Tuesday's crash was registered to Spitzer Helicopter LLC in Canyon Lake in Riverside County.

It was manufactured in 2003 by the Robinson Helicopter Co., based in Torrance. The family-owned company's two-seat R22 and four-seat R44 are among the most popular civilian helicopters in the world.

Lightweight and relatively affordable, they are a top choice for flight schools, police departments, sightseeing companies, ranchers and recreational pilots.

Tuesday's crash was at least the third serious accident in Southern California in the last year involving an R44, National Transportation Safety Board records show.

Last May, the pilot and two passengers aboard an R44 suffered serious injuries when it crash-landed on a golf-course maintenance yard near Santa Barbara.

Two months later, an R44 lost power and landed hard on a city street in Sherman Oaks, injuring the pilot and three passengers.

The FAA and the NTSB will investigate Tuesday's accident.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

Fry writes for Times Community News.

Twitter: @kchristensenLAT

Twitter: @AleneTchek

UPDATES:

7:20 p.m.: This article was updated with a comment from the Newport Beach mayor.

5:10 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from a resident and the helicopter owner.

4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with background on the helicopter.

4:05 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the helicopter owner.

3:50 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with confirmed fatalities.

This article was originally published at 2:50 p.m.

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