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Helicopter and plane collide midair in Arizona; 2 killed

A helicopter and a single-engine plane collided in midair over suburban Phoenix Friday, and the two people aboard the copter died after it crashed into a brush field near a municipal airport, officials said. The flight instructor and a student aboard the plane landed safely and were not hurt.

The collision happened in the city of Chandler near Chandler Municipal Airport, which does not have scheduled commercial air passenger service, said police Sgt. Jason McClimans. He said no one on the ground was hurt.

News video showed a firefighting crew using a tarp to cover the helicopter’s burned wreckage in brush on what appeared to be a vacant lot or field near the airport’s southern boundary. The plane was upright at the airport near a runway and its fuselage appeared intact.

A helicopter near Phoenix, Ariz., collided with a single-engine plane while in the air.

A helicopter near Phoenix, Ariz., collided with a single-engine plane while in the air.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

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The landing gear of the plane, a Piper PA-28, was damaged in the collision, but the plane landed safely, the Federal Aviation Administration reported in a statement. The helicopter was a Robinson R22, according to the FAA.

Richard Bengoa said in an interview that he is the owner of the small Chandler-based aircraft rental company that owns the four-seat plane, which is used mostly for flight training. He said the only people aboard were the flight instructor and the student pilot. Authorities said neither needed medical attention once the plane landed.

Though officials did not allow Bengoa to get close to the plane, he said it appeared from a distance that the plane’s landing gear had been damaged. He said he had no information about how the collision happened and was not permitted to speak with the flight instructor or the student pilot.

Bengoa described his business as “not quite” a flight school.

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“It’s more of a family business to kind of promote aviation and help people get their licenses,” Bengoa said.

The airport was closed, McClimans said. The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into the cause of the collision and the helicopter crash, according to the FAA, which will assist in the investigation.

Police were seeking witnesses and people who may have videotaped the collision and chopper crash.

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