The aircraft crashed 4 1/2 miles west of Elmira Corning Regional Airport, said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. A police dispatcher had no further information Thursday afternoon. Peters said the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
The helicopter was being used to inspect transmission lines, said Clayton Ellis, a spokesman for New York State Electric and Gas. It is not owned by NYSEG but was operated by a contractor. Ellis said the company is cooperating with authorities.
"NYSEG is deeply saddened by this tragic accident," the company said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and co-workers of the two men who were killed in today's crash."
Fire Chief John Tighe told the Corning Leader newspaper that the helicopter got tangled in power lines and crashed near the Chemung River, exploding when it hit the ground and killing two men instantly.
Tighe said the helicopter, a McDonnell Douglas 369D, belonged to Haverfield Aviation Inc., based in Gettysburg, Pa. The company describes itself on its website as a leading provider of power line inspection and maintenance services in the U.S. and abroad. A call to the company rang unanswered Thursday evening.
An employee of World Kitchen on the south side of the river told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin that the helicopter clipped a power line near its building first, knocking out electricity temporarily, and then crashed along a dike on the river.
Corning, home to the glass and ceramics industrial giant Corning Incorporated, is in New York's southern tier, just north of the Pennsylvania state line.
A spokesman for the NTSB did not immediately return a call seeking comment.