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Five killed in tour helicopter crash near Lake Mead

Reported by: Michelle Velez

Reported by: Rob Munoz
Posted by: Phillip Moyer
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Updated: 12/08/2011 8:51 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Five people are dead after a tour helicopter crashed in treacherous terrain near Lake Mead around 5:00 p.m. yesterday on the west side of the lake near a water treatment facility.

Rescuers are getting ready to head to the scene of a tour helicopter crash near Lake Mead. Five people were killed when their chopper crashed on the west side of the lake -- near a water treatment facility

The victims’ bodies are still at the scene. Authorities decided last night to suspend recovery efforts until first light this morning. they plan to pick up where they left off last night and begin the investigation into what happened.

The accident occurred in very rugged terrain just west of the river mountains. The helicopter, owned by Sundance Tours, took off from McCarran airport, toured the hoover dam, and was on its way back when it crashed.

The helicopter involved was an AS-350 tour helicopter.

The area is not accessible by vehicle, and metro police search and rescue had to reach the scene by helicopter.

The identities of the victims have not been released, but a family member of the pilot was able to confirm his brother, Landon Nield, was flying the helicopter and did die in the crash. The identities of the other are not expected to be released until their families have been notified.

Sundance helicopters, the company that operated the helicopter that went down last night, has had crashes in the past. The most recent -- Sundance’s first deadly crash -- happened eight years ago in the grand canyon, killing six passengers and a pilot.

The helicopter went down in a part of the Grand Canyon known as "descent canyon," about 50 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona.

The National Transportation Safety Board found then that the aircraft's rotor hit a cliff before it went down. According to the NTSB report, two complaints were made against that pilot before the accident from passengers saying he was flying too close to canyon walls. That chopper was also the same model of helicopter that went down yesterday-- an AS-350.

A Sundance helicopter also made an emergency landing near Lake Mead in 2009, but no one was injured then.

Sundance Helicopters has been operating in Las Vegas since 1985. They offer tours all over the southwest, specializing in Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam tours. The company's website touts their two FAA awards for excellence in aircraft maintenance.

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