6 People Killed in Helicopter Crash in West Virginia Mountains

Six people were killed, authorities said, when a helicopter flown at a gathering for historic aircraft enthusiasts crashed Wednesday night in Logan County, W.Va.

The helicopter came down on Route 17 near Blair Mountain, said Sonya Porter, assistant director of the Logan County Office of Emergency Management. The mountainous area in the southern part of the state is known as Kelly Hollow.

Mrs. Porter was unsure what could have caused the accident.

“At the time the accident happened, I think the weather was clear,” she said.

The plane was a Bell UH-1B helicopter manufactured in 1962, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Ray Bryant, who was at the scene of the crash and is the chief of operations for the Logan Emergency Ambulance Service Authority, said his tail number was N98F.

The N98F helicopter is owned by Marpat Aviation, which was hosting an annual meeting this week for “Huey” helicopters, a nickname for the plane. Its website said people could make a reservation to fly the helicopter without being a pilot.

According to the website, flying the helicopter for 30 minutes required a $250 donation to pay for fuel, while others could ride by making a small donation. The helicopter that crashed had been used in the Vietnam War and appears in films such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Rock’ and ‘Baywatch’.

Mike Holbrook, owner and operator of Marpat Aviation, did not return a call seeking comment. Two people answering company-related phone numbers hung up on a reporter.

The helicopter, which had taken off from the Logan County airport, crashed into the pavement and guardrail of a two-lane rural road, Bryant said. He said the helicopter was still on fire when he arrived and in his 35 years with county emergency services he had seen “no accident of this magnitude.”

A woman said she ran as fast as she could to the scene after the accident, hiding under the railing. “I climbed up to the helicopter, but the fire was so hot, so intense,” the woman, Bobbi Childs, told WSAZ-3, a television station in Huntington.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

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