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Hoover Dam Helicopter Crash Kills 5

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 08, 2011 2:59 PM

Investigators are at the scene of a Hoover Dam helicopter crash that killed everyone on board.

Four passengers and the pilot were killed when the helicopter crashed into a mountainside just after sunset Wednesday, KSNV-TV reports.

Authorities have not released the victims' identities. But a relative identified the deceased pilot as Landon Nield, an employee of Sundance Helicopters. Sundance offers helicopter tours of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon.

The luxury sightseeing copter had just circled Hoover Dam and was returning to Las Vegas, about 12 miles away. Weather conditions were clear and were probably not a factor in the crash, The Huffington Post reports.

The aircraft in Wednesday's Hoover Dam helicopter crash was built in 1989, according to the FAA. Investigators will likely look into the chopper's maintenance history, as well as the pilot's records.

Relatives of the crash victims will probably use those records as evidence for a possible civil lawsuit against Sundance. That's what happened after the company's last fatal crash in 2003.

In the 2003 crash, a pilot and six passengers were killed when a Sundance helicopter went down near the Grand Canyon. Federal investigators blamed the pilot for unsafe flying, noting he had a habit of performing risky maneuvers very close to canyon walls.

Customers had complained to Sundance about the pilot's "thrill rides," but the company took no action. One victim successfully sued Sundance for negligence, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in 2006. A jury awarded her survivors $3.2 million.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the remote scene of Wednesday's Hoover Dam copter crash this morning. An on-site investigation will take at least three days, the Associated Press reports.

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