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

·13-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

  • Helicopter was ‘probably oldest’ of its kind, owners say

Thursday 23 June 2022 11:02 , Gino Spocchia

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

Six people killed

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

FAA and NTSB leading investigation

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

Helicopter featured in ‘Die Hard’

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

What could have caused the helicopter crash?

Thursday 23 June 2022 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

Gov Jim Justice ‘praying’ for families of victims

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

Helicopter was ‘in flames’

Thursday 23 June 2022 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)

Victims were not local, authorities say

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

Helicopters riders ‘did not need to be pilots'

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

FAA and NTSB due to visit wreckage site today

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

Witness says one passenger was trapped

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.”

Helicopter was ‘probably oldest’ of its kind

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

Everything we know already about the helicopter crash

Thursday 23 June 2022 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

Crash biggest seen by local official in 30 years

Thursday 23 June 2022 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.

FAA yet to verify aircraft number

Thursday 23 June 2022 16:55 , Gino Spocchia

In a statement provided to The Independent, the FAA said on Thursday that it was yet to verify the aircraft registration number of the helicopter that crashed in Logan County.

“After investigators verify the aircraft registration number at the scene, the FAA will release it (usually on the next business day)”,” the agency said.

The federal aviation body added that neither it or the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who are leading the investigation into the crash, will be identifying the victims. The local sheriff’s office is likely to do so however.

‘There was a guy trapped’, says witness

Thursday 23 June 2022 17:25 , Gino Spocchia

Bobby Childs, a witness of the helicopter crash, told WOWK-TV about how she was unable to rescue a man who was trapped in the burning aircraft.

“I saw that there was a guy trapped, I guess the captain,” she told the local news station.

“I tried to get down to the door where he was at. You could see him plain as day. I tried to get to him, but the fire was too hot. I couldn’t get to him”.

Firefighters later extinguished the flames.

Family assistance teams sent by NTSB

Thursday 23 June 2022 17:55 , Gino Spocchia

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Wednesday night that a family assistance team and five investigators were sent to Logan County, West Virginia, following the deaths of six people in a helicopter crash.

West Virginia senator Joe Manchin pays tribute to victims

Thursday 23 June 2022 18:30 , Gino Spocchia

“Gayle and I are devastated to hear of the deaths of six people killed in a horrific helicopter crash in Logan County,” said the Democrat senator in a statement on Thursday.

“This is a heartbreaking time for the families, friends and loved ones of those in the crash, and I know our entire state feels this loss.”

He continued: “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and my staff and I stand prepared to support the Logan County authorities, first responders and entire community during this time of need.”

NTSB investigators due at scene this afternoon

Thursday 23 June 2022 19:00 , Gino Spocchia

A spokesperson for the NTSB told The Independent on Thursday that its investigators are due to arrive at the scene of the helicopter crash at about 3pm today.

An unpdate from the transport safety body is expected at some point.

Tributes paid to six people killed

Thursday 23 June 2022 19:30 , Gino Spocchia

Tributes to those killed by Wednesday evening’s helicopter crash in Logan County, West Virginia, have been paid by aviation enthusiasts and local businesses on social media.

That includes Mountain Laurel Integrated Healthcare, who said on Thursday: “Our thoughts, prayers, and love are with you all—and with the entire MARPAT Aviation team—at this difficult time.”

Where did the crash take place?

Thursday 23 June 2022 20:00 , Gino Spocchia

The crash occurred on a state highway, Route 17, near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites.

As the Associated Press reported on Thursday, the mountains are where a deadly clash erupted a century ago as thousands of coal miners marched to unionise in West Virginia.

The battle was thought to be the largest workers’ uprising in the history of the US.

Today, the area is used by tourists for cabin retreats and other activities.

Everything we know already about the helicopter crash

Thursday 23 June 2022 20:30 , 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

What caused the crash?

Thursday 23 June 2022 21:00 , Gino Spocchia

It remains unclear what caused the helicopter, which the Logan Emergency Management Authority described as a utility military helicopter, to crash.

Otherwise known as a “Huey”, the Vietnam War-era helicopter was powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors. It was manufactured in 1962.

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

Weather conditions were clear at the time.

Victims were not local

Thursday 23 June 2022 21:30 , Gino Spocchia

Logan County authorities have told local reporters that none of the six people killed in the crashed “Huey” helicopter were from that part of West Virginia, and where likely visiting for a charity event celebrating the much loved Vietnam War-era military aircraft.

At least one of the victims, a man, was described by local resident Bobbi Childs as being trapped in the burning wreckage of the helicopter. He could not be saved.

Enthusiasts could pay to be pilot

Thursday 23 June 2022 22:00 , Gino Spocchia

To ride or pilot the “Huey”, event organisers had invited tourists to pay a donation.

That was $250 to pilot the helicopter, even without a licence, and a smaller amount to ride as a passenger.

MARPAT Aviation have not commented publicly on the crash involving their helicopter.

The “Huey Reunion” event was taking place from 21 June to the 26th, and was the seventh such annual gathering.

First responders recognised helicopter: ‘We see it a lot’

Thursday 23 June 2022 22:30 , Gino Spocchia

All six people on board were killed, said Ray Bryant, chief of operations for Logan County emergency ambulance service authority, in comments to the Associated Press.

He said despite thunderstorm warnings the helicopter crashed in clear weather, not far from the airport where it had taken off from. “The entire cab of it was on fire,” Mr Bryant said in a phone interview Thursday. “It was recognised by the first responders as being a helicopter from this area because we see it a lot”.

Senator Capito calls crash ‘devastating’

Thursday 23 June 2022 23:00 , Gino Spocchia

Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday that the helicopter crash in Logan County was “devastating news”.

Logan-born jazz singer pays tribute to victims

Thursday 23 June 2022 23:30 , Gino Spocchia

Paying tribute to his hometown in a statement on Wednesday night, jazz singer Llandau Eugene Murphy Jr said he was praying for all those involved in the crash and their families.

Murphy, who won the sixth season of America’s Got Talent, wrote in a Facebook post: “Please keep my hometown in your thoughts tonight… I have no information on this, but my heart breaks to all involved and the families”.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting