WEST WINDSOR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Scattered remains and a charred spot in the middle of a cornfield are now being investigated following a small helicopter crash in West Windsor, New Jersey Saturday.
Police said the pilot was apparently the only one on board. He has been identified as 65-year-old Michael Scarfia, a retired New York City Police Officer.
Some witnesses told officials they saw a flock of birds in the area just before the chopper went down.
“[Witnesses] heard an explosion, saw the rotors were missing and then at that point the helicopter went down in this area,” West Windsor police Lt. Robert Garofalo told CBS2’s Drew Levinson.
“It’s a three-bladed helicopter. We have not accounted for one rotoblade,” said NTSB Investigator Bob Gretz.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safey Board are at the crash site near Route One and Quakerbridge Road.
There are several shopping centers near the crash site, including the Quakerbridge Mall, and all of them were packed Saturday.
If the chopper had gone down a mile in any other direction, authorities said someone on the ground could have been injured or killed.
Authorities said the helicopter was a twin engine Aerospatiale-AS 355.
Witness Kathy Novatkoski said she’ll never forget seeing it fall from the sky.
“The smell was just horrible, like burning metal I guess, you know that smell of burning metal,” she told Levinson.
The NTSB said the helicopter was on its way from Princeton to Atlantic City and there was no distress call.