Witness risks her life to save crash victims

SAN PEDRO The Eurochopter AS-350 chopper had just left from Long Beach for a sightseeing trip when the engine had some kind of engine problem and went down at about 9:30 a.m. on the west end of the island near the Banning House Lodge at Two Harbors.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Wendy Burch's interview with Deborah Hansen, the eyewitness who helped save the survivors.

The crash killed three, including the pilot, and injured three people on board. Two of the victims were burned beyond recognition, and the coroner's office is awaiting dental records to identify them.

Two women and a man were airlifted to mainland hospitals. Two remained in critical condition Saturday night.

The crash also caused a grass fire, which was put out quickly.

The chopper was operated by Island Express.

"The witnesses are the ones that said that they saw the engine flare out, but they saw that over the water, and then it made it onto land, where it eventually crashed," said Steve Whitmore from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities from the FAA and NTSB have been flown to Catalina Island to investigate.

The frantic scene of the crash was all caught on home video, as rescuers rushed to help victims that were trapped by flames.

Authorities said some of the victims were thrown from the wreckage and others trapped inside.

Friends of one of the witnesses who rushed to the scene said she tried desperately to save as many as she could.

She immediately went over and responded because she's had training as an American Airlines flight attendant," said Nori Martin, a friend of a witness.

At Island Express, a note on the door said simply, "Closed for the day in remembrance of our crew members and passengers that lose their lives."


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