News Copter Down In New Jersey, Pilot And Photographer Killed


The pilot and photographer aboard a television news helicopter were killed when it crashed in a wooded area of southern New Jersey Tuesday night (Dec. 19). The single-engine Eurocopter AS350B2 went down in the Wharton State Forest, about 30 miles from Philadelphia, around 8 p.m. while returning from an assignment on the New Jersey shore to its home base at Northeast Philadelphia Airport. The helicopter and crew were contracted through U.S. Helicopters and were longtime members of Philadelphia’s 6ABC news team.

New Jersey State Park Police Chief George Fedorczyk told reporters the park police were first notified at 11 p.m. that the helicopter was missing. The wreckage was found just after midnight. The park police identified the victims as pilot Monroe Smith, 67, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, and photographer Christopher Dougherty, 45, of Oreland, Pennsylvania.

There were no immediate reports of radio transmissions from the helicopter or any indication of what may have caused it to go down. Investigation teams from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were on site today and will remove the wreckage to a secure area for examination.

Retired photojournalist Pete Kane worked for another area television station and told reporters he was not only a colleague of Smith, but also a classmate from an area high school. “We’re competitors at TV stations,” he said, “but in reality, we’re all friends. We all look out for each other.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Terrible tragedy for all concerned.
    Knew it well .
    N606HD –
    Since residing in the area of its operations and flying out of the same airports that the crew operated out of for many years.

    • “NBC meteorologist Bill Henley reported that the weather was cloudy with light winds at the time of the crash.”
      I would estimate that in my area the WX was 13004KT 10SM BKN075 02/M06 A3049 RMK AO2 SLP322 T00221061.

    • Marko, I thought the same thing. ( migratory bird ). Because the site of the crash is over the Pine Barrens of NJ.

      NTSB releases new details on crash on Friday 12/22/23:

      During a Friday afternoon news conference, NTSB Investigator Gunther said the team has been “charting the wreckage,” looking to see where the wreckage path began and ended.

      Officials originally said the debris field from the helicopter was 100 yards, but Gunther said it is now about 200 yards long.

      “We’ve determined that the approach path, or approach angle if you will, into the trees from the flight was very shallow. The aircraft hit at a very high speed, and after striking trees, it fragmented. The direct path, which we initially got the information from the FAA, which had measured, initially we thought was about 100 yards long,” Gunther said.

      The debris field is now believed to have doubled.

      “It then traveled through the woods, through those 200 yards, before coming to rest. It was subjected to a post-crash fire. “Our examinations have also indicated that there was no type of in-flight fire or type of explosion with the aircraft.”

      Flight tracker data shows that, around 8 p.m., the helicopter had a dip in altitude while returning to Philadelphia. Three minutes later, the chopper’s altitude dropped again.

      “Preliminary air traffic control data shows the aircraft was on course at the time when the accident occurred,” Gunther said. “Tree strike images show it was in a descending pattern, in other words, it was descending rapidly when it impacted the trees.”

  2. Thoughts and prayers for the families and the emergency responders.
    The possibility of a laser strike, or other ground based strike comes to mind, a second or two of cowardly aggression. A menace to aviation, especially in highly populated areas.