Three dead, two injured as helicopter crashes into California home

Three people were killed and two others injured when a helicopter crashed into a house in southern California just a few minutes after taking off, US officials said.

The helicopter hit the property with such force that it was barely recognisable.

The crushed metal sat in a heap on the side of the house, its tail rotor sticking out of the roof of a nearby home and a 6ft (2m) chunk landing in the street in front of another property.

"All of a sudden the house just shook and I thought 'Oh my gosh, we're having an earthquake'," said Marian Michaels, who lives behind the home in a gated community in Newport Beach, where the helicopter crashed.

Roger Johnson was doing some woodwork when he heard the sound of a helicopter's rotating blades and then a tremendous boom across the street.

"I turned to look out of the garage and that's when I see this piece of metal flying through the air and hitting a bush and garage door," he said.

"Then I heard someone scream - a real for-real horror scream, like something terrible had happened."

Mr Johnson rushed to the wreckage and warned people to stop trying to pull out or move victims.

Four people were on board the Robinson R44 helicopter when it went down.

Three were killed and one injured, and one person who was on the ground but outside the house was also injured, Newport Beach fire and police officials said. They did not give any further details.

Audrey Ellis, who lives next to the house where the crash happened, was not at home at the time but said her neighbours told her they were in the kitchen when the helicopter hit a bedroom of their house.

"It's so scary," Ms Ellis said, adding that her neighbours were not hurt - "I'm so thankful."

The aircraft had taken off from John Wayne Airport, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport is about a mile (1.6km) from the crash site.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Messages seeking comment from Revolution Aviation, which is based at the airport and operated the helicopter, were not immediately returned.

The company offers helicopter and aeroplane flying lessons, the use of aircraft for photography and video production as well as sightseeing flights.

-PA

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