Five Confirmed Killed in Arizona Helicopter Crash

Former Seattle businessman Thomas J. Stewart, his wife and their young daughter were among five people killed in a helicopter crash north of Phoenix, a spokesman for Stewart’s company, Services Group of America (SGA), said.

“Authorities conducted a thorough ground and air search of the crash area Sunday afternoon and into the night,” a SGA spokesman said in a statement. “They are certain there were no survivors.”

The family was flying from Flagstaff to Scottsdale Air Park when the crash occurred.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. Thomas Little, an air safety investigator for National Transportation Safety Board, said that it could be nine months to a year before a cause, if any, is determined.

Little said that there was a ¾ mile debris trail leading up to the crash site, indicating that pieces of the aircraft had come off. Little said the pieces appeared to come from one of the helicopter’s rotors, although he could not say which one. Little said that he was not aware of any radio distress calls before the crash.

Investigators starting moving debris to a site for examination.  “It’s a time-consuming process,” Little said.

Stewart owned a ranch in Flagstaff, according to Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer, who was a former neighbor of Stewart on Vashon Island and worked for Stewart as a former vice president of SGA.

The helicopter belonged to Services Group of America, the parent company for Food Services of America.

“The impact was horrific. There was debris everywhere,” said Maricopa County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Lindsey Smith. “The aircraft is literally in pieces.”

According to emergency calls made from the scene, Smith said there were reports of smoke, loud noises and pieces falling from the helicopter as it went down.

“The indications are there were some mechanical issues going on,” Smith said. She said the helicopter crashed in a wash that is about 100 feet wide, with houses on either side.

Sheriff deputies were going door to door, interviewing residents and blanketing a debris search area that officials described as several hundred feet.

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board headed to the crash scene, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Stewart was a Seattle native and was active in both Washington business and political circles.