A pilot died and a passenger was left in critical condition Wednesday after their helicopter crash-landed just outside of Las Vegas in the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, in Nevada‘s Mojave Desert.
The pilot, identified only as a 53-year-old Connecticut man, and another unidentified male passenger were the only two people aboard the Robinson R44 helicopter when it crash-landed in the desert conservation area around 3:40 p.m., the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Witnesses began rendering first aid immediately before first responders arrived, Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Buratczuk told the Review-Journal. The two were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The pilot succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. The passenger remained in critical condition at the University Medical Center as of Wednesday night. Authorities did not release their identities.
Nevada Highway Patrol-Southern Command said on Twitter that a portion of the highway near the crash site would be closed until around noon Thursday to allow for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate. The National Transportation Safety Board would also investigate the incident, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Buratczuk said the helicopter battery was still connected, which posed a risk of igniting the fuel onboard the craft. He said the road closures were put in place to prevent anyone from being harmed in the case of a fire or explosion.
The FAA said the cause of the crash had not yet been determined, Fox 5 Las Vegas reported. According to the agency, the helicopter was registered to Binner Enterprises LLC, an aviation and flight school in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb.
The owner, Matt Binner, told Fox 5 the pilot had been renting helicopters from his company for about three years. Binner’s LinkedIn profile also says he’s the director of operations for a company called 5 Star Helicopter Tours. He said the two men were supposed to take the craft on a one-hour leisure tour. Binner did not disclose the names of the two men but said the pilot was registered and not a student.