Advertisement

Authorities identify 3 people killed in helicopter crash in Newport Beach

Three people killed when a helicopter crashed into a home in a gated neighborhood in Newport Beach on Tuesday have been identified, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph Anthony Tena, 60, of Newport Beach; Kimberly Lynne Watzman, 45, of Santa Monica; and Brian Reichelt, 56, of Hollywood died in the crash, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Two other people were injured, authorities said.

Four people were onboard the Robinson R44 helicopter when it crashed into a home on Shearwater Place near Egret Court in the Bayview Terrace community. Police responded to the crash about 1:50 p.m., officials said.

A pedestrian also was involved, police said. Authorities said Wednesday they could not confirm whether all those killed in the crash were on the helicopter, though a photographer at the scene said the person on the ground appeared to have suffered minor injuries.

Advertisement

The four-seat copter crashed under unknown circumstances after it departed from John Wayne Airport, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Resident Paddi Faubion said she was in her home when she heard a helicopter rotor struggling to turn. The aircraft sounded as though it was losing power, she said. She ran to her balcony and watched as the copter clipped the roof of a neighbor’s home and slammed into the side of another, sending up a plume of dust.

“It was like a train hitting a wall,” Faubion said. “You just knew something horrible had happened.”

Advertisement

Several neighbors rushed to the aircraft to help, and two of them pulled out the pilot, who looked extremely pale, with his mouth bloodied, Faubion said. Fuel spilled from the helicopter onto the street.

A woman was in the kitchen of the home when the helicopter crashed, damaging a bedroom, according to neighbors. No one in the house was hurt.

FAA records show the helicopter was registered to Spitzer Helicopter LLC in Canyon Lake in Riverside County.

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

Advertisement

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

Authorities would not confirm Wednesday who was flying the helicopter.

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

A message left with Revolution Aviation was not returned Tuesday.

Advertisement

The copter was manufactured in 2003 by Robinson Helicopter Co., based in Torrance. The family-owned company’s two-seat R22 and four-seat R44 are popular among flight schools, police departments, sightseeing companies, ranchers and recreational pilots.

Fry writes for Times Community News.


Advertisement