A 1962 Huey helicopter crashed late Wednesday afternoon near Blair, West Virginia, killing all six people aboard, including a former Bradenton resident.
Don Sandhoff, 69, was a 1971 graduate of Southeast High School who enlisted in the Army in 1972 and served 22 years in uniform.
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois, known as the Huey, was a workhorse helicopter during the Vietnam War, serving a variety of roles, including troop lift, resupply, gunship and medevac.
The helicopter that crashed, which was reportedly used in a “Die Hard” movie, was based at Logan County Airport, said Ray Bryant, chief of operations at Logan County Ambulance Authority.
“The helicopter came down on a road near Blair, a rural area with no houses,” Bryant said. “There were six souls on board and none survived.”
They included three pilots, a female passenger, who was the wife of another pilot who was at Logan for the flying event, but was not on board. Also on board were two local men who had made a donation and were given a flight, said reunion participant Gary Jones.
“This event is not a charity fundraiser, just a bunch of primarily Vietnam veteran pilots who were allowed to climb in and experience flying a Huey again. The pilot pays for the fuel for a 30 minute flight. I was scheduled to be there Friday afternoon and am experiencing the heartache being felt by all involved,” Jones said.
Sandhoff’s sister is Janet Mixon, co-owner of Mixon Fruit Farms.
“We are a very patriotic family. My father served in World War II. When our older brother, Bill Sandhoff, was drafted into the Army, my father re-enlisted and served with Bill in Vietnam,” Mixon said.
As an Army chief warrant officer, Don Sandhoff continued the family’s military tradition by inducting his son, Carl Sandhoff, into the Marine Corps on June 16, 1994.
Don Sandhoff’s last assignment was at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as a helicopter pilot and as executive officer for an aviation unit.
It was unknown who was flying the Huey that crashed Wednesday or what brought it down, Mixon said.
Don texted his wife just before the crash and said he and the other pilots were preparing to go for a flight.
“He said this was pure joy,” Mixon said.
The Huey reunion was scheduled for June 21-26 at MARPAT Aviation at the Logan County Airport.
The MARPAT website invited participants to pay to ride or fly the helicopter, whether they were pilots or not.
“Take the right seat and YOU can fly N98F,” the website says.
The Sandhoff family expects that a celebration of life will be held in Bradenton.