Helicopter crashes, bursts into flames

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MESA, Ariz. - A helicopter crashed early Tuesday morning a few miles north of Mesa's Falcon Field in a dirt area near the State Route 87 Beeline Highway and Gilbert Road.

The two-person crew was able to exit the aircraft and were transported by air to area hospitals to be treated for injuries they are expected to survive.

Ian Gregor with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the Bell 212 aircraft departed Falcon Field before crashing in an open area on the Salt River Pima Reservation four miles north of the airport.

Boeing confirmed they owned the Bell 212 support aircraft. A flight of three aircraft lifted off from Falcon Field and the downed helicopter was one of two support aircraft for an Apache Longbow helicopter on a routine mission. They didn't release any other details.

The large plume of thick black smoke was first seen around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Moments after 3TV's helicopter arrived on scene, three men were seen standing and walking around near the helicopter. Two of those men were passengers.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident and it is standard that the NTSB takes a week or two to release a preliminary report on an accident.

3TV's Bruce Haffner said he believes the helicopter might have had a hard landing before bursting into flames. He speculated that since the aircraft was not scattered around the area in pieces it might have landed before catching fire, allowing the passengers to get out alive.

There were delays on State Route 87 for a short time while emergency vehicles staged for the accident.