A PennSTAR medical helicopter fatally crashed on Thursday at 11:55 a.m. in New Castle, Delaware, ABC affiliate WPVI reported. The pilot, 37-year-old Michael R. Murphy from Franklinville, New Jersey, was the only person on board when the helicopter crashed.
The Eurocopter EC135, registered with University of Pennsylvania Health System’s PennSTAR air transportation service, was conducting a training exercise and was not engaged in any life-saving operations when it crashed. The aircraft went down in an area behind a U.S. Post office, which is about a mile south of the New Castle County Airport.
Murphy, according to NBC Philadelphia, was flying from Atlantic City and was conducting approach training in inclement weather to prepare for landings in emergency situations. He was also a back-up pilot for the station’s SkyForce 10 news helicopter.
Witnesses heard a sputtering sound as the helicopter nose-dived. Video and photos captured images of flames and a rolling black plume of smoke at the crash site. The crash also damaged a building and vehicles parked behind the postal facility.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators arrived at the crash scene, late Thursday afternoon.
“We are here to document the scene, photograph the evidence, collect perishable evidence but overall, we’re looking into the man, the machine and the environment,” Heidi Kemner of the NTSB said.
The Delaware State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration are also investigating.
The helicopter was operated by Metro Aviation, an air medical company based in Shreveport, Louisiana. Kristen King Holmes, Metro Aviation’s spokesperson, told CBS News that company operations, safety and maintenance personnel were traveling to the scene. She said the company’s thoughts and prayers are with the pilot’s family, PennSTAR family and its entire company.