HOUSTON -

Federal investigators are searching for the cause of a fatal helicopter crash in northeast Harris County on Monday.

The single-engine Robinson R-22 helicopter crashed in a steel yard near the intersection of the Crosby Freeway near Miller Road #3 about 3:30 p.m.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the pilot was Christopher Yeager, 40, and his passenger was 60-year-old Joyce Ates. They were both killed.

Witnesses said they could tell the helicopter was in danger before the crash.

"It was in a tailspin coming down," witness Jerrod Dannar said. "I watched it hit the ground, throw dust, catch fire."

Investigators said Yeager refueled the helicopter in Baytown about two hours before the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the chopper was operated by Helicopter Services Inc. out of Hooks Airport in Spring.

Yeager and Ates may have been on a photography flight at the time of the crash.

Detectives said they will tear apart what's left of the engine and try to figure out what went wrong.

Photos: Fatal helicopter crash

Published On: Sep 10 2012 04:25:41 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 10 2012 06:01:34 PM CDT

Two people die when a small helicopter crashes in northeast Harris County.

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