The Eurocopter EC135 was registered to Services Group of America (SGA), a large, privately held food service and real estate firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona. A report by the Seattle Times quoted an SGA spokesperson as saying the helicopter was a private aircraft report belonging to SGA owner Thomas J. Stewart, who moved the SGA headquarters from Seattle four years ago.
However, spokesman Brad Parker indicated that the company had received conflicting reports as to who may have been on board. Asked if people at the company feared Stewart had been killed in the crash, Parker replied, "Of course, we all do. That's something that's on our minds. But with the conflicting information, we're waiting to see what the authorities tell us."
Eyewitnesses said they saw parts flying off the aircraft before the helicopter crashed in a fireball. "I saw the helicopter flying in the air and that stuff that goes round, up, the rotors were coming apart and then I said, 'OK something wrong is gonna happen,'" witness Nicoleta Nork told KTVK-TV. "And I just saw it rolling, rolling and boom, then big smoke, and yeah, terrible."
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Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lindsey Smith described the impact as "horrific. There was debris everywhere. The [helicopter] is literally in pieces."
The helicopter came down in a wash between houses in a rural residential area at about 3 pm Mountain Time on Sunday. There were no indications of any injuries on the ground. Sheriff's deputies were going door-to-door looking for witnesses, ensuring no one was hurt and collecting any debris in the area important to the investigation.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were due to arrive in Cave Creek, just north of Phoenix, this morning to launch a helicopter crash investigation.