Helicopter crashes during magazine photo shoot

A helicopter accident involving a photo shoot crew for Powerboat magazine occurred this morning over the Gulf of Mexico near Sarasota, Fla.

The magazine was holding one of its four annual Performance Trials, and was in the midst of a morning photo and video shoot when the helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, killing two people and injuring a third. Ehlert Publishing Group, parent company to Powerboat magazine received news about the crash between 9:15 and 10:00 a.m. East Coast time.

There are no details yet on what caused the crash, and Ehlert officials are working with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department in an effort to determine the cause.

According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department, the helicopter pilot was Mark A. Watters of Pasadena, Calif. He is listed in serious condition at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photographer Thomas Newby of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and videographer Mark Copeland of North Carolina, died in the accident.

Newby has been the chief photographer for Powerboat in recent years. A freelancer, he has been doing the Performance Trials shoots for more than 12 years. Mark Watters, the pilot, is owner of Southland Helicopters in southern California. He has been flying helicopters for the Powerboat Performance Trials for the past 6 years.

Mark Copeland was at the trials on behalf of American Powerboat Television, who Powerboat magazine contracts to shoot video for the magazine’s Web site and also for the American Powerboat Television show.

“We are saddened by this incident and are working closely with the Sarasota County Fire Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department to gather more information,” said Dick Hendricks, executive vice president of Ehlert Publishing Group. “Our sincerest condolences go out to the families and friends of the two fatalities and injured.”

Powerboat has been in existence for 39 years and has been conducting photo shoots like this for 35 years. This is the first such accident. Powerboat magazine is a sister publication to Boating Industry magazine.

More information will be provided as authorities learn more.

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