Coroner identifies pilot in deadly helicopter explosion in Corona
The Riverside County coroner's office has identified the pilot who was killed when his helicopter exploded at Corona Municipal Airport on Sunday night.
James Bechler, 61, of Long Beach was killed when the helicopter he was piloting exploded near the airport's refueling station. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said they believe the copter's rotor blades struck the station canopy.
A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman told the City News Service on Tuesday that records show Bechler added more than 40 gallons of fuel to the helicopter about 15 minutes before the explosion.
Review of airport video footage shows the helicopter was facing toward the station, lifted off, made a 180-degree turn to the right and tilted forward with its tail coming up immediately prior to the explosion.
The explosion continues to be investigated by the NTSB and the FAA.
-- Wesley Lowery
Photo: An investigator takes photographs of the wreckage of a Robinson R-44 helicopter at Corona Municipal Airport. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times