SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. (PIX11) – A helicopter pilot was killed in a crash Thursday afternoon in South Brunswick, New Jersey, authorities said.

The single-engine helicopter crashed in a canal around 3:25 p.m. after departing from nearby Princeton Airport, according to the South Brunswick Police Department. Witnesses saw the helicopter flying erratically before it went down, police said.

The pilot was believed to be the only person in the helicopter, according to Jim Ryan, deputy chief with the South Brunswick Police Department. No one on the ground was injured, authorities said.

First responders found the helicopter upside down in about 3 feet of water. They lifted the helicopter and dragged the pilot out of the water, but he died from his injuries, authorities said.

An employee at a nearby auto body shop said he heard a noise that just didn’t sound right – kind of like a loud truck. He looked out the window and saw the helicopter in a tailspin.

“I’ve been here 50-something, 56, 57 years. It’s the first time we’ve had an aircraft down,” said George Luck.

Flight data shows the helicopter was bound for Trenton, New Jersey, according to police. What went wrong along the way is, for now, a mystery.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

Finn Hoogensen is a digital journalist who has covered local news for more than five years. He has been with PIX11 News since 2022. See more of his work here.