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Six people were killed after a Vietnam-era helicopter crashed while touring West Virginia on Wednesday evening, according to authorities.
The Bell UH-1B helicopter, known as “Huey,” crashed around 5 p.m. on a rural road in Logan County, W.Va., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The helicopter crashed near Mount Blair, in a mountainous part of the state.
The plane had been used to offer tourist flights around the area, Ray Bryant, the chief operating officer of Logan’s Emergency Management Authority, told WSAZ. The helicopter, owned by Marpat Aviation, was part of an annual meeting this week for fans of the historic “Huey” aircraft.
The names of the victims have not been released, but Bryant told local media they were not from the area.
The cause of the accident is still unclear, according to authorities. The Logan County Emergency Management Office had issued a severe storm alert for the county at the time of the incident.
“After rescuers arrived at the scene, they were later able to confirm that six people died in the crash,” said Sonya Porter, deputy director of the Logan County Office of Emergency Management. Washington Post.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board announced they are investigating the incident. The NTSB said it was sending a team of five investigators and a family care specialist to the crash site.
Mike Holbrook, the owner and operator of Marpat Aviation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
The Bell UH-1B helicopter was manufactured in 1962 and used during the Vietnam War, according to the FAA. The Huey that crashed had also appeared in several films, including “Die Hard”, “The Rock” and “Baywatch”.
Huey’s seventh annual meeting began on Tuesday and was scheduled to last until Sunday, according to Marpat’s website. Historic aircraft enthusiasts could make a reservation at Logan County Airport to pilot the helicopter without being a pilot, the website says. A $ 250 donation was required for those who wanted to fly for 30 minutes to help cover the fuel. Those who wanted to accompany him could do so by making a small donation.
“We want all helicopter enthusiasts (especially Huey) to have the opportunity to fly / ride in this historic helicopter,” the website says.
Porter told The Post that in addition to the Huey meeting, the Logan City Freedom Festival was also being held.
“I don’t know if they were participating in these events or where they came from,” he said.
When crews reached Route 17 near Kelly Hollow shortly after the crash, the helicopter was still on fire, Bryant told WSAZ. Authorities said the front of the helicopter appeared to have crashed into a railing and toward the slope. Bryant told local media that one of the helicopter owners arrived at the scene but did not specify if it was Holbrook.
“Everyone is sad that this happened in our county, and they are distressed by the incident,” Porter told West Virginia MetroNews.
Gov. Jim Justice (RW.Va.) tweeted that he and his wife, Cathy, were “praying for the families of those killed in this tragic helicopter crash.”
The road is temporarily closed and it is unclear when it will reopen, WCHS reported.
Witnesses explained the intensity of the fire after the accident. Bobbi Childs, who lives a mile from where the helicopter crashed, told WSAZ he saw at least one person trapped on the plane when the flames had hit him.
“I ran as fast as I could, got under the railing and got on the helicopter,” Childs said. “But the fire was so hot, so intense, and that boy didn’t get out of there.”