🚁 A helicopter crashed in South Brunswick Thursday after flying erratically

🚁 The pilot was identified as an Israeli citizen

🚁 Salvage crews have removed the helicopter from the canal

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — The man killed in a Middlesex County helicopter crash has been identified as an Israeli national.

Josef Yitzhak, 44, of Israel suffered "massive injuries" around 3:25 p.m. Thursday afternoon when a helicopter he was piloting crashed in South Brunswick, police said. The crash site was in a body of water near the Delaware and Raritan Canal and where the Millstone River meets Lake Carnegie.

Josef-Ram Yitzhak via Facebook
Josef-Ram Yitzhak via Facebook

Yitzhak worked as a commercial pilot for Aerojet in Africa, according to his LinkedIn profile. An experienced flyer and flight instructor, he had gone to Princeton Airport to pursue another certification and planned to return to Israel in around ten days.

He was remembered on social media by friends as a man who "never stopped smiling." His body will be transported to Israel for burial, reported The Jerusalem Post.

Erratic flying, malfunctioning helicopter

The National Transportation Safety Board and salvage crews worked through Saturday afternoon to clear the site of the crash. The helicopter had partially submerged in five feet of water, making removal more difficult.

But what caused the crash is still under investigation, said Aaron McCarter, an air safety investigator with the NTSB. It could take up to a year to complete the full investigation, but a preliminary report could be done within five to ten days.

What is known is that Yitzhak was flying a Robinson R-22 helicopter and had taken off from Princeton Airport at 3:12 p.m. Thursday. He flew east and soon lost control when the helicopter was around 800 feet above ground level.

"There are some rumors out there saying the helicopter came apart and fell to the ground. That is partially true but the helicopter actually went out of control first and then proceeded to suffer a catastrophic failure," McCarter said.

"We have witness statements saying it was flying erratically. We have photographic evidence saying that it was taking some pretty steep turns and spinning. As that was happening, the main rotor blades struck the tail boom, severing the tail into three separate pieces and then the rotor blades also struck the canopy," McCarter said.

Scene of a helicopter crash in South Brunswick
Scene of a helicopter crash in South Brunswick (South Brunswick police)

A number of factors including the weather and wind conditions will be considered in the investigation, McCarter said.

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