1 dead as chopper explodes, goes down in flames in Bucks

Posted: October 18, 2012

One person was reportedly killed in the explosion and fiery crash of a helicopter this morning in Bucks County and federal authorities are now investigating the incident.

The helicopter went down in a wooded area atop a hill near the Delaware River in the Erwinna section of Tinicum Township, a Bucks County dispatcher said.

The area, just off River Road, is directly across from Frenchtown, N.J.

The pilot may have been the sole occupant of the aircraft. Multiple media accounts identify the pilot as Doug Brigham, a retired corporal with the Pennsylvania State Police.

The crash occurred about 6:30 a.m., only a few miles from the Van Sant Airport, which is owned by the Bucks County Airport Authority.

But officials said they are not certain where the helicopter's flight originated. It appears it took off from private property, not an airport.

A number of witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion near Uhlerstown Road and Everbreeze Drive. Then they saw flames.

It was unclear if the pilot was still with the aircraft when it went down. The helicopter was mostly destroyed.

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said it has been difficult for investigators to get information on the aircraft since the tail was so badly burned.

"We don't know how many people were on board the helicopter," Peters said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will assume responsibility for investigating the crash, he said.

The helicopter likely did not have to file a flight plan, according to Peters, so information about the route or purpose of the flight was not immediately available.

The FAA requires all aircraft to be registered and that number is placed on the tail.

It's most likely that the helicopter was flying under visual flight rules, which operate under certain conditions such as clear, bright days.

"Our information is very preliminary and subject to change," Peters said.

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