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Two killed in SK 'copter crash

"National Transportation Safety Board officials are still combing the forest near Trophy Lake Golf Course looking for clues into why a 2001 Robinson R44 helicopter crashed May 11, but it could be weeks before they make a determination.The two Seattle men who died in the crash, Wade C. Carter, 71, and Robert E. LaPrarie, 59, were certified, experienced pilots. LaPrarie was the director of operations for Classic Helicopter Corp., the company that owned the helicopter.A witness at the Trophy Lake Golf Course on May 11 told Fire District 7 crews he heard what sounded like an engine backfiring. He looked up and saw a helicopter doing a tail spin, said Lisa Kirkemo, spokeswoman for Fire District 7.While investigators are still gathering information into why the men were flying over South Kitsap County, they might have taken the R44 out so Carter could get the hang of flying it. I believe Wade Carter was thinking about purchasing an R44 for himself, said Philip Walling, vice president of Classic Helicopter Corp.That said, because an R44 can be controlled by either person sitting in the front, no one knows who was piloting the helicopter when it went down. It's a mystery. Nobody has any idea what happened, Walling said. So far, it doesn't appear the men put out a May Day call. The craft itself was new and didn't appear to have any operating problems. It had between 130 and 140 air hours and had just had a 100-hour check-up. Maintenance reports indicated there weren't any problems with it.Because the area in which they were flying is uncontrolled air space, they might not have been communicating with a control tower during their flight. They did not radio the Bremerton National Airport.The investigation is a difficult one, hampered by thick undergrowth and debris scattered as far as 300 feet from the main crash site. Debra Eckrote, the National Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator at the site, said it will likely take weeks for investigators to determine what caused helicopter to crash. Right now, the goal is to find all the components of the ship. With the spinning motion the witness described, we're real interested in finding that tail section, she said. It's an extreme challenge. Right now, you pretty much have to be right on top of something to find it.The helicopter crashed into the trees off Lake Flora Road, at the former Pilgrim Firs park, around 9:22 a.m. May 11. District 7 crews responded to the crash site about 10 minutes later. We had to find it, Kirkemo said. Firefighters extinguished a debris fire at the scene prior to NTSB officials taking over to investigate.Classic Helicopter Corp. will hold a celebration of life service May 18 at 2 p.m. for LaPrarie, who worked at the company for about three years. We're all in a state of shock, Walling said. We're all in mourning. "

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