Helicopter crashes into West Palm Beach residential area

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators continue to look into how a helicopter crashed right next to a West Palm Beach home Saturday.

Two people aboard the helicopter suffered minor injuries, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The R-22 helicopter went down at 4:22 p.m. after an engine apparently failed, said FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker.

No one on the ground was injured, she said.

The helicopter is owned by a California company, Spitzer Helicopter Leasing, which said it was being used by Ocean Helicopters, a flight school that operates from the North Palm Beach County Airport. A representative of Ocean Helicopters said the organization has "no comment" on the situation as of Monday morning.

Ocean Helicopters's choppers have been involved in at least two other accidents in the last 2 1/2 years, according to National Transportation Safety Board records.

One of the accidents, just four months ago in West Palm Beach, is still under investigation, but a preliminary NTSB report blamed a system malfunction. In another June 2009 crash in Naples, which left one person seriously injured, the board's investigators blamed maintenance errors.

In the hours after the crash, neighbors and TV crews roamed nearby streets.

Racquel Abelha, 27, of Palm Beach Gardens, was outside her mother's house a few roads away when they heard the sound of a helicopter and then heard it hit the ground.

"It wasn't anything explosive," she said. "It just seems like it fell."

Abelha drove toward the sound to see what had happened.

"Everyone walked away," she said. "They were perfectly fine."

Obradovich was staying with a friend Saturday night.

In her front lawn, near the wreckage, is a sign that says "Caution: Falling coconuts." Now, she jokes, she'll have to update it: "Beware of the falling coconuts - and helicopters!"

Palm Beach Post staff writers Adam Playford and Mitra Malek contributed to this report.

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