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Three walk away from Mount Charleston helicopter crash

Metro Police say two men, one woman escaped before aircraft caught fire

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Justin M. Bowen

Metro Police and other agencies respond to Mount Charleston on Sunday evening to investigate a helicopter crash that injured three people.

Updated Monday, Sept. 28, 2009 | 3:27 a.m.

Mount Charleston Helicopter Crash

Two men and one woman were injured in a helicopter crash on Mount Charleston Sunday night.

Mount Charleston Helicopter Crash

Metro Police and other agencies respond to Mount Charleston on Sunday evening to investigate a helicopter crash that injured three people. Launch slideshow »
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This Robinson R44 helicopter is similar to the one that crashed Sunday night at Mount Charleston.

Three people on board a helicopter that crashed Sunday near the Mount Charleston peak escaped with injuries that weren't life-threatening, authorities said.

The Clark County Fire Department received a report of the aircraft crash at 6:33 p.m. Sunday. The pilot had called in the crash from his cell phone, Metro Police spokesman Bill Cassell said during a Sunday night news conference.

The two men and one woman were able to escape the downed aircraft before it caught fire, Cassell said.

One person was airlifted to University Medical Center with burns. Police said a second person was transported by ambulance to a hospital while a third suffered only minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

"Apparently they had a skilled pilot who was able to get an aircraft that was in trouble on the ground," Cassell said. "Luckily, everyone walked away from it."

The privately owned helicopter, a Robinson R44, was a "complete wreck," Cassell said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.

A witness said the aircraft seemed to be in trouble before it struck the side of the mountain, Cassell said.

The crash occurred at an altitude of about 11,500 feet. At that height, the temperature was probably in the upper 30s when factoring in the wind chill, said Ray Johnson, a firefighter with the National Forest Service.

"We had an aircraft accident last year with four fatalities not too far from where this one was so they were very fortunate that they were able to walk away from this," Johnson said.

The federal National Forest Service assisted Metro's Search and Rescue team because the crash occurred in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

The helicopter caught fire but it burned itself out, Cassell said.

It wasn't clear where the helicopter took off from or where it was headed but the early investigation suggests that it was a local flight with plans to stay in the Las Vegas area, Cassell said.

The aircraft is capable of flying at an altitude of 14,000 feet and up to 400 miles fully fueled, according to the company's Web site.

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