Helicopter was level in the sky last month before falling into Newport Beach neighborhood, report says

A helicopter that crashed last month in Newport Beach killing three people hit the roofs of two houses and landed against a third home one minute after takeoff, a preliminary report of the federal investigation shows.

At about 2 p.m. on Jan. 30, several residents in a quiet neighborhood on the northeast end of Upper Newport Bay heard loud noise before exiting their homes and finding the Robinson R44 helicopter on the ground, twisted and to the side of a damaged home.

Others in the neighborhood had spotted the troubled flight.

“Multiple witnesses adjacent to the accident site reported observing the helicopter in level flight before it began descending in a nose low attitude toward a residential area,” says the National Transportation Safety Board’s report, which was released on Feb. 8. “Witnesses reported that the helicopter struck the roof of two houses before it impacted the ground.”

A nose low attitude occurs when a helicopter descends at an angle, with the nose lower than the tail.

After striking the roofs, the four-sear helicopter, which had just departed from John Wayne Airport, came to rest on its left side against the third house at Egret Court and Shearwater Place.

The report did not reveal any details about what might have led to the Jan. 30 crash. The flight was headed to Catalina Island.

The pilot along with two passengers were killed. A third passenger was seriously injured, and one person on the ground had minor injuries.

The NTSB’s report says all the major parts of the helicopter were recovered and have been taken to a secure location for examination.

A full report by the federal agency will take months, if not a year, before it becomes public.

Staff writer Scott Schwebke contributed to this report.

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