Five people were killed in a Sundance Helicopter tour over the Hoover Dam on Wednesday night around 5pm, local time. The Sundance helicopter left McCarran International Airport on a luxury sunset tour that was to take place over the Hoover Dam, when it crashed in the River Mountains on the Western side of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The cause of the Sundance Helicopter Crash is still unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board is launching a 12-member team to investigate the crash. “The area where the crash occurred is along the normal route helicopters take with normal weather conditions, a low temperature around 29 and winds around 5 mph,” spokesman Andrew Munoz said.
The crash site at the River Mountains isn’t accessible by road so the rescue and recovery times were cut down. A Park Ranger rode a 4-wheel drive truck to the crash site to protect the bodies and debris until investigation can continue. Officials had to call off the recovery efforts around 7:00 pm because of the danger of accessing the crash site in the dark, which is about 30 minutes from Las Vegas.
Authorities have not released any information about the identities of the victims.
Sundance Helicopters’ website says only one local tour flies over Lake Mead. The 30-minute “Twilight City Tour” spans downtown Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip. Packages start at $210 per person. “Fly in a state of the art luxury air-conditioned 6 passenger jet helicopter.” “All our helicopters are maintained with exacting precision and our pilots are trained then retrained with ongoing re-certification in excess of FAA requirements.”
Spokesman for Aviation Administration, Ian GregorFederal said, the helicopter was an Eurocopter AS350, which can hold up to six passengers and is often used for air tours. FAA records state the helicopter was built in 1989.
This isn’t Sundance first helicopter crash. The Huffington Post reports, “A pilot and six passengers were killed in September 2003 when a helicopter slammed into a wall while maneuvering through Descent Canyon, east of the Grand Canyon West Airport. In a 2007 letter that made safety recommendations to air tour operators and the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board cited unsafe flying procedures and pilot misjudgment as the probable cause of that crash.
In August 2009, the pilot of a Sundance tour helicopter returning from the Grand Canyon with six passengers on board was forced to land in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area after the controls indicated an electrical problem. No one was injured.”