6 people dead after Vietnam War-era helicopter crashes in West Virginia

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Six people died after a helicopter crashed and caught fire Wednesday evening in southwest West Virginia, authorities said.

The helicopter crashed around 4 p.m. local time Wednesday in Logan County, near West Virginia’s border with Kentucky, Ray Bryant, Logan Emergency Management Authority chief of operations, told USA TODAY.

When crews arrived at the scene, they found the helicopter in flames, Bryant said.

All six people on board the aircraft died. Bryant did not identify the victims.

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Bobbi Childs, who lives about a mile from the crash site, told local news station WSAZ-TV she called 911 and rushed to the scene, where she found the helicopter in flames and at least one person trapped inside.

“I ran as fast as I could go and I went under the guardrail and I went up to the helicopter,” she told the station. “But the fire was just so hot, so intense.”

The aircraft was a Bell UH-1B helicopter, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. Bryant said the helicopter was based out of the Logan County Airport.

The Bell UH-1B is a military helicopter that uses a single turboshaft engine, according to the Heritage Flight Museum in Skagit County, Washington. The aircraft first flew in 1956 and was used in the Vietnam War. The helicopter, known as a “Huey, was often used for tourist flights, Bryant told WSAZ-TV.

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The seventh annual “Huey Reunion” started in Logan County on Tuesday, according to MARPAT Aviation, a helicopter facility at Logan County Airport. During the event, Huey enthusiasts are able to fly or ride in the historic helicopter.

Bryant said he does not know where the helicopter was leaving from or headed when it crashed. He also said he didn’t know the purpose of Wednesday’s flight.

There were two events going on in Logan County at the time of the crash, Sonya Porter, deputy director of the Logan County Office of Emergency Management, told USA TODAY in an email. The City of Logan’s Freedom Festival and the Huey Reunion both began Tuesday.

Porter said she does not know if the passengers of the helicopter were participating in those events.

“Cathy and I are praying for the families of those killed in this tragic helicopter crash,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said on Twitter.

Logan County Emergency Management Services, the Logan County Fire Department, West Virginia State Police and the Logan County Sheriff’s Department were among the agencies that responded to the scene, Bryant said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, the FAA said in a statement. The NTSB said on Twitter it sent a team of five investigators to the crash site.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.