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6 people killed in helicopter crash in West Virginia Mountains

Written by Javed Iqbal

Six people were killed, authorities said, when a helicopter flying during a reunion for historic aircraft enthusiasts crashed Wednesday night in Logan County, W.Va.

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

Ms. Porter was not sure what could have caused the crash.

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

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

The N98F helicopter is owned by Marpat Aviation, which this week held an annual reunion for “Huey” helicopters, a nickname for the aircraft. Its website said people could reserve to fly the helicopter without being a pilot.

Flying the helicopter for 30 minutes required a donation of $ 250 to pay for fuel, according to the website, while others could ride along by making a small donation. The helicopter that crashed had been used during the Vietnam War and appears in movies including “Die Hard”, “The Rock” and “Baywatch”.

Mike Holbrook, the owner and operator of Marpat Aviation, did not return a call requesting comments. Two people answering phone numbers associated with the company hung up on a reporter.

The helicopter, which was taking off from Logan County Airport, crashed into the roadway and crash barrier on a rural two-lane road, Mr. Bryant. He said the helicopter was still on fire when he arrived and that in his 35 years with the county emergency services he had seen “no crash of this magnitude.”

A woman said she ran to the scene as quickly as possible after the crash and ducked under the crash barrier. “I went up to the helicopter, but the fire was just so hot, so intense,” said the woman, Bobbi Childs, told WSAZ-3a television station in Huntington.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the matter.

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Javed Iqbal

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