LOS ANGELES — A helicopter carrying four tourists including a young Indian newlywed couple crashed in a ravine near Las Vegas after veering off course, an initial investigation said Tuesday.
The pilot and all passengers died last Wednesday when the chopper they were taking to see the Hoover Dam, a popular tourist flight, crashed in mountains near the Nevada gambling mecca.
Anupama Bhola, 26, and her husband, Lovish Bhanot, 28, from New Delhi, were among the dead, according to Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy, cited by the Las Vegas Review journal.
“It is my understanding that they were married sometime in November in their home country,” Murphy said. “They were vacationing in Las Vegas.”
An initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), released Tuesday, said the helicopter appeared to be flying on a normal route until shortly before the crash.
“The helicopter… followed a normal route of flight easterly out of the (Las Vegas) airport traffic area, then turned toward Hoover Dam, it said, adding: “Weather was reported as clear with good visibility and dusk light conditions.”
“Tour routings are standardized for all the area tour operators,” it said, noting that all seemed normal until a minute before the accident, when “the helicopter climbed to 4,100 feet MSL and turned about 90 degrees to the left.
“The left turn and climb are not part of the normal route,” it said, adding that the helicopter then descended to 3,300 feet and flew northeast for about 20 seconds, until entering a left turn then a descent,” it said.
The last radar reading was when the chopper was an 1/8 of a mile before it crashed, the report added.
The crash was not the first involving Sundance Helicopters, which advertises itself on its website as “the most experienced and largest helicopter company in Nevada.
In September 2003 a pilot and six passengers died when one of the firm’s helicopters crashed in Descent Canyon, about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) east of Grand Canyon West Airport, in Arizona.
Sundance Helicopters operates a fleet of 23 choppers including American Eurocopter A-Star AS350 models and ASB EC130 aircraft, according to the company website.
Photo credit: Alan Stark