The Sightseeing Helicopter

August 5th 1969

An American sightseeing helicopter of Prior Aviation operating from Goat Island crashed at 3:40 p.m. into the upper Niagara River approximately 180 feet above the hydro control dam.

The pilot and two passengers were killed. The pilot was identified as Edward Horning, of East Aurora New York. The dead passengers were Louis Episcopo, and his companion Fillomena Pescatore, both from New Jersey.

Following the crash, the bodies of both passengers floated free from the wreckage and were swept downstream. The mangled helicopter containing the body of Horning was swept through one of the hydro control dam gates before grounding approximately 100 yards downstream (approximately 50 feet from the Canadian shore in 7 feet of calm water). Two Bell Aerospace test pilots: Richard Carlin and Ernest Panapinto responded to an emergency call. They were able to swim out to the wreckage and recover the body of Horning. The body of Pescatore was immediately recovered from the river along the shoreline by Ontario Hydro employees. The body of Episcopo was recovered several days later at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.

The cause of the crash was attributed to engine failure brought on by fuel starvation. Witnesses reported that the doomed helicopter was only 200 feet above the surface of the Niagara River when its engine quit functioning. Witnesses saw Horning struggling to control the helicopter while the passengers appeared to be bracing themselves for a crash-landing.

Edward Horning was an experienced pilot with over 2,400 hours flying time as a pilot in the U.S. Navy.

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