4 die as helicopter crashes onto Md. highway

July 24th, 2009 by

SMITHSBURG, Md. – A commercial helicopter crashed onto a western Maryland highway and burst into flames late Thursday night, killing all four people on board, emergency officials said.

The aircraft was engulfed when firefighters arrived at the scene minutes after receiving a call at 10:30 p.m., said Washington County emergency services director Kevin Lewis. No vehicles on the highway were hit when the helicopter crashed in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70.

Visibility was somewhat limited by fog at the time of the crash, but it wasn’t clear if weather played a role, Lewis said. Storms had passed through the area earlier in the night.
Troopers shut down the highway in both directions near the crash site.

The crash happened west of the Washington County-Frederick County line, on the western slope of a ridge known as South Mountain. Smithsburg is about 10 miles east of Hagerstown.

Wreckage could be seen just off the shoulder on the far left side of the three eastbound lanes of the highway. A blade jutted out from twisted metal.

Lewis said the helicopter was a Robison R44, a four-seat commercial craft.

Maryland State police are in charge of the investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified of the crash, Lewis said.

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