- Associated Press - Friday, May 5, 2017

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - A helicopter returning from a tourist flight crashed and burned at a golf club Friday, injuring three people on board, authorities said.

The four-seat Robinson R-44 went down around 2 p.m., said Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The helicopter, based at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, had just finished a tour of the harbor area and was returning to the airport when it developed a mechanical problem and crash-landed in the parking lot of the club maintenance area, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

The aircraft hit two vans, but nobody on the ground was hurt.

The male pilot and the passengers, a man and a woman, were able to get out of the helicopter before it caught fire, Zaniboni said. They were taken to a hospital with moderate injuries, he said.

The fire gutted the vans and incinerated the chopper except for its tail.

FAA records show the aircraft is registered to Spitzer Helicopter LLC, a Riverside-based helicopter leasing company.

The company’s president, Eric Spitzer, said the helicopter has been leased by a tour company in Santa Barbara for the last three years and he hadn’t spoken to the pilot after the crash Friday.

The helicopter, a 2001 Robinson R-44, was inspected by the FAA last week and is checked before every flight, Spitzer said. An FAA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the helicopter’s most recent inspection.

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