West Virginia helicopter crash: Six dead as Vietnam-era aircraft goes down during ‘pay-to-fly’ charity auction

Six people have died after a helicopter used for tourism flights crashed onto a highway in West Virginia on Wednesday.

The helicopter, which was based at an airport in the state’s Logan County, crashed on State Route 17 near a rural area and was on fire when rescue crews arrived, according to officials.

Ray Bryant, the Chief of Operations for the Logan Emergency Management Authority, confirmed that there were no survivors.

Mr Bryant described the helicopter as a Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1B, which is a utility military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors, manufactured in 1962.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board have sent investigators to the scene. State Route 17 was expected to remain closed for 24 hours during this investigation.

“A Bell UH-1B helicopter crashed near Rt 17 in Logan County, West Virginia, around 5pm local time Wednesday,” the FAA said in a statement. “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.”

The reason behind the crash remains unclear but according to Logan County’s office of emergency management, there was a severe thunderstorm watch for the area at the time of the incident.

Reacting to the crash, West Virginia governor Jim Justice tweeted: “Cathy and I are praying for the families of those killed in this tragic helicopter crash.”

The helicopter, owned by Marpat Aviation, was being used during an annual reunion this week for a charity event, according to the New York Times.

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Anyone could pay a $250 donation for the fuel and fly the helicopter for 30 minutes without being a pilot, while others could ride along with a small donation, the website states, according to the report.

The Vietnam war-era helicopter has a strong following among aviation enthusiasts, and has featured in a host of hit films including Die Hard, The Rock and Baywatch.


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