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MILITARY HELICOPTER CRASHES, KILLS 4

A military helicopter crashed in a fireball Thursday morning on the grounds of Sikorsky Aircraft, killing all four crew members, authorities said.

Witnesses said the CH-53E "Super Stallion" was hovering 100 feet to 200 feet above the end of the tarmac at the Sikorsky plant. The aircraft appeared to be laboring, and there was smoke before it crashed."I saw the helicopter hovering . . . like it was trying to get up," Jeff Kunkel told WTNH-TV of New Haven. "The next thing I know, this thing hits the ground and parts and everything went flying all over the place and it burst into flames."

Another witness told Bridgeport radio station WICC the helicopter crashed in a fireball about 15 feet from the Housatonic River, which runs alongside the Sikorsky plant.

The helicopter had just taken off with four people for a test flight when it crashed, according to Sikorsky officials and the Federal Aviation Administration. The only people who died were on the helicopter, the company said.

No one on the ground was hurt.

The crash caused massive traffic jams on the nearby Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways, as motorists slowed down to watch.

"I saw it start going up, and the next thing there was a big boom - it shook our building, it crashed, and there was smoke billowing out all over," said Mary Beth Desrosiers, a clerk at Oronoque Pharmacy across the street from the plant.

John Stein, a cashier at the pharmacy, said the helicopter was a few hundred feet off the ground when it exploded and crashed to the ground.