- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tour helicopter crashed in rainy weather on an island off the Southern California coast this morning, killing three people and injuring three others, a county sheriff’s deputy said.

The helicopter went down on the west end of Santa Catalina Island near Two Harbors, causing a small fire that was quickly doused, authorities said. Helicopters airlifted the three injured to mainland hospitals.

County Supervising Fire Dispatcher Melanie Flores said their condition at the time of transport was critical and that they would require treatment for broken bones among other injuries.

The chopper was a private tour aircraft from Island Express, Deputy Chuck Upton said.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the helicopter departed from Long Beach and was scheduled to return to that city. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

The island is 26 miles west of the California shore, near Los Angeles.

The crash occurred near the Banning House lodge, which overlooks a popular boating spot. A woman who answered the phone at the lodge confirmed reports that the chopper’s engine appeared to quit, crashing about 200 to 300 yards inland in grass.

The owner of Island Express had gone to the scene of the crash, said a woman who answered the company’s telephone. She declined to give her name and other details.

An Island Express sightseeing chopper made a hard landing on the island in 1999, slightly injuring six tourists.

The company provides charters and tours to the island and other Southern California destinations, according to the company’s Web site. The company also does movie and television work and services off-shore oil platforms.