West Virginia helicopter crash - live: Six dead after invite to pilot ‘oldest flying Huey’ without licence

·7 min read
A ‘Huey’ helicopter flying over California  (Tony Webster via WikiCommons Creative Commons licence 2.0)
A ‘Huey’ helicopter flying over California (Tony Webster via WikiCommons Creative Commons licence 2.0)

A Vietnam War-era helicopter from the film Die Hard collided with a highway in West Virginia killing all six people onboard and left no survivors, authorities in Logan County have said.

Ray Bryant, the Chief of Operations for the Logan Emergency Management Authority, told reporters on Wednesday evening that the helicopter crashed on Route 17 after leaving the nearby Logan County Airport, where it is based.

It remains unclear what caused the Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1B helicopter to come down, authorities said, and an investigating involving the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSA) is now underway.

The helicopter was being flown by enthusiasts for a charity event, The New York Times reported.

Key points

  • Six people killed as helicopter crashes in Logan County

  • Enthusiasts were taking part in charity event, report says

  • West Virginia governor ‘praying’ for families of victims

Crash biggest seen by local official in 30 years

16:25 , Gino Spocchia

Ray Bryant, an emergency management chief for Logan County, West Virginia, said the crashed helicopter was possibly the worst he had scene in his 30-year career.

Mr Bryant said on Wednesday he had seen “no crashes of this magnitude,” according to The New York Times.

It came as a witness recalled running-up to the downed aircraft “but the fire was just so hot, so intense,” so she could not get close enough to save a trapped man.

Everything we know already about the helicopter crash

15:55 , Gino Spocchia

From where the Vietnam War-era helicopter crashed to who was onboard and its flying history, here’s everything we know about what happened:

Six dead as Vietnam-era helicopter crashes during charity auction

Helicopter was ‘probably oldest’ of its kind

15:25 , Gino Spocchia

The owners of the crashed “Huey” helicopter claim the aircraft was “quite probably the oldest flying Huey in the world”, in an “about page” on their website.

Mapat Aviation say the Bell UH-1B helicopter was deployed to Vietnam in 1962 before joining the 114th Assault Helicopter Company: “The Knights of the Sky” in Vinh Long, Vietnam.

The aircraft served in Vietnman for nearly a decade before returning to the United States in 1971, and in recent decades has been used for tourism flights and films – including Die Hard and Baywatch.

It was known affectionately as “Miss Fit”, which was painted on the helicopter body.

Witness says one passenger was trapped

14:55 , Gino Spocchia

Bobbi Childs, a Logan County resident who witnessed the crash, told CNN affiliate WSAZ that the helicopter seemed to be out of control and crashed.

Ms Childs said she raced to the scene and when she got there, she saw at least one person was trapped in the helicopter, which was alight.

“I ran as fast as I could go and I went under the guardrail and I went up to the helicopter,” she told the local news outlet. “But the fire was just so hot, so intense, and that guy didn’t make it out of there.”

FAA and NTSB due to visit wreckage site today

14:25 , Gino Spocchia

A reporter for WSAZ at the scene of the helicopter crash in Logan County on Thursday morning says investigators from the FAA and NTSB are scheduled to visit the crash site in the coming hours.

Shannan Litton also said the wreckage of the Vietnam War-era aircraft remains where it crashed on Wednesday evening, citing crews at the scene.

Helicopters riders ‘did not need to be pilots'

13:55 , Gino Spocchia

The charity event at Logan County Airport was the seventh annual “Huey Reunion” organised by the downed helicopter’s owners, Mapat Aviation.

According to the company’s website, the event had started on 21 June and was running until Sunday.

Those aviation enthusiasts who wanted to fly the 1962-built helicopter were able to do so without being a pilot and a $250 donation for fuel, Mapat said. It remains unknown who was flying the aircraft when it crashed, killing six people.

The Independent has approached the company for comment.

Victims were not local, authorities say

13:30 , Gino Spocchia

According to authorities, the six people killed in the helicopter crash in Logan County, West Virginia, were not locals.

Ray Bryant, the chief of the Logan County emergency ambulance authority, told news outlet WSAZ that while the passengers have not been identified, they were not local.

They were thought to have been riding the helicopter as part of a charity event at Logan County Airport honouring the Vietnam War-era aircraft.

Helicopter was ‘in flames’

13:05 , Gino Spocchia

Ray Bryant, the chief of the Logan County emergency ambulance authority, told local news outlet WSAZ the helicopter was in flames when first responders arrived at the scene on Wednesday evening.

The helicopter, which crashed near the Route 17 state highway along Blair Mountain at about 5pm, was eventually put out by firefighters, Mr Bryant added.

The road was expected to remain closed for at least 24 hours as investigators carry-out their work and the wreckage is cleared.

The crash occurred along Route 17 in Logan County (Google Maps)
The crash occurred along Route 17 in Logan County (Google Maps)

Gov Jim Justice ‘praying’ for families of victims

12:40 , Gino Spocchia

West Virginia governor Jim Justice tweeted on Wednesday evening that his thoughts were with the families of the victims of the helicopter crash.

What could have caused the helicopter crash?

12:15 , Gino Spocchia

While the cause of the crash is not currently known, the Vietnam War-era helicopter involved in Wednesday’s tragedy was reportedly taking part in a charity event at Logan County Airport.

Enthusiasts could pay $250 to ride the ex-military aircraft and a smaller amount to fly as a passenger in the helicopter, The New York Times reported.

The event was honouring so-called“Huey” helicopters, which have a strong following among Vietnam War veterans and aviation fans.

Logan County authorities said severe thunderstorms were forecast for the area at the time of the incident, as Stuti Mishra reports:

Six dead as Vietnam-era helicopter crashes during charity auction

Helicopter featured in ‘Die Hard’

11:50 , Gino Spocchia

The helicopter that crashed in Logan County, West Virginia, on Wednesday was reportedly the same Vietnam War-era aircraft that featured in the film Die Hard.

The helicopter, which is known as a “Huey”, has appeared in a host of other films includingThe Rock and Baywatch, according to the owners of the aircraft, Mapat Aviation.

FAA and NTSB leading investigation

11:30 , Gino Spocchia

The FAA said in a statement following the crash: “A Bell UH-1B helicopter crashed near Rt 17 in Logan County. Six people were on board.”

“The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates.”

Investigators were at the scene of the crash on Wednesday and according to reports, further updates are expected – possibly on Thursday.

Six people killed

11:08 , Gino Spocchia

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) confirmed on Wednesday evening that all six passengers flying on a Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1B helicopter were killed after it crashed at around 5pm.

It was not clear who was flying the aircraft, which the Logan Emergency Management Authority described as a utility military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors, manufactured in 1962.

The helicopter came down near Route 17 along Blair Mountain in West Virginia’s Logan County, and federal investigators are looking into what caused the crash.

11:02 , Gino Spocchia

Hello and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the helicopter crash in West Virginia.