Avalon, CA Helicopter Crash, Feb 1981


Avalon, Calif. (UPI) -- A helicopter carrying a honeymooning coulple and a family of five to Santa Catalina Island crashed and sank in deep water just 300 yards from a beachfront heliport, killing a young boy and the groom trapped in the sinking wreckage.
The pilot of the Catalina Airlines helicopter and five of the seven passengers, who clung to the wreckage of the Sikorsky S-62A, were rescued soon after Sunday's crash.
The five were taken aboard the lifeguard boat Baywatch and transferred to area hospitals, with the pilot reported in serious condition today.
Three lifeguards attempted to get inside the chopper where the boy and the man were still trapped, but the fuselage quickly sank in about 240 feet of water and efforts to save the two were unsuccessful.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, and a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said a full investigation was ordered. A diver was sent to the scene today to recover the bodies and the wreckage.
It was the fourth fatal crash in less than four years for Catalina Airlines which operates both helicopters and airplanes between the mainland and the Southern California tourist resort.
A Coast Guard spokesman said the helicopter was flying from San Pedro to Pebble Beach heliport on Santa Catalina, about 26 miles, when it crashed at 2:41 p.m. PST.
"It was making a normal approach about a half-mile out, then it started swirling, making a large semi-circle," said witness, Leo Moran, owner of Avalon Cab Co.
"When it was halfway finished with this circle, it turned on its side and dropped about 100 feet -- not very fast, slow-like. It came down on about a 45-degree angle and hit the water. It stayed afloat for several minutes and then it started sinking."
Sheriff's deputies identified the dead as LIOR LEVY, 5, of the Encino area of Los Angeles, and MIGUEL ORTEGA, 23, of Maywood, Calif.
ORTEGA'S 18-year-old bride, GLORIA, was admitted to Avalon Municipal Hospital with fractures, scratches and bruises, along with MAURICE LEVY, 42, his wife CLARA, 30, their daughter MAIRCE, 14, and son JOSEPH, 11.
Pilot WALTER PINKERTON, 34, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., was reported in serious condition with chest injuries at Torrance Medical Center.
"There is noo comment to be made," said a spokeswoman for Catalina Airlines, which operates both helicopters and airplanes between the mainland and Santa Catalina.
In 1977, three of the company's World War II vintage seaplanes were grounded for a time when their frames were found to have suffered corrosion damage.
A year later, a Catalina Airlines helicopter crash in San Pedro Bay injured three people, one of whom subsequently died of injuries. In 1979, one elderly woman was killed and 10 other people were injured in the crash of a seaplane.
In September 1979, a second Catalina Airlines crash killed one man and injured three others.

The Roswell Daily Record New Mexico 1981-02-23