Helicopter with News Crew Crashes, Killing Three With AM-Hormel Strike Bjt
ELLENDALE, Minn. (AP) _ A chartered helicopter carrying an ABC News crew to cover a meatpackers’ strike in Austin crashed into a field in dense fog before dawn Tuesday and burned, killing the reporter, producer and pilot aboard, officials said.
″There were no survivors,″ said Roger Ledding, chief of the State Patrol.
Aboard the aircraft, which had departed a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb, were correspondent Joe Spencer, 31, and producer Mark McDonough, 30, said Tom Goodman, an ABC News spokesman in New York.
The victims, both based in Chicago, were on their way to cover the strike at the Geo. A Hormel & Co. plant in Austin, about 25 miles southeast of this southern Minnesota community.
The pilot was Curtis Mark Haugen, 35, said Lon Wojtowicz, president of Odyssey Helicopter Service Inc., of White Bear Lake, Minn., from which ABC had chartered the helicopter. Haugen was from Marine-on-St. Croix, said Dr. Leon Steiner, the Freeborn County coroner.
The Bell Jet Ranger was found just off Interstate 35 about two miles southeast of Ellendale, authorities said.
″The helicopter crashed in an open field,″ Ledding said. ″It did not strike any trees or wires prior to striking the ground. It did burn on contact, not completely but substantially.″
Freeborn County Sheriff Don Nolander said there was ″very, very dense fog, right down to the ground″ at the time of the crash.
Nolander said the pilot may have become disoriented in the fog and the helicopter may have accumulated ice. Federal investigators arrived Tuesday, and National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Fred Ferrar said in Washington that it was too early to speculate on a cause of the crash.
The helicopter left the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, about 65 miles north of here, at 3:35 a.m. and went off radar about 30 minutes later, said Bill Henke, a State Patrol dispatcher.