Monticello, Ga.—Three people were killed when a helicopter crashed in the dense woods of a national wildlife preserve in central Georgia, a federal investigator said Friday.
The Robinson R66 helicopter scattered debris over a path 125 feet (38 meters) long, indicating a “high-energy impact,” Aaron McCarter, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, told a news conference.
He said two pilots and a passenger died in the crash Wednesday night. Their identities were not immediately released.
The helicopter took off from Thomasville, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of the crash site, at 6:40 p.m. on Wednesday, McCarter said, and was reported missing about two hours later. He said the weather during the flight was rainy with low clouds and reduced visibility.
Search teams combed the woods in rural Jasper County looking for the crash site, and discovered the wreckage Thursday afternoon.
April Seabolt, who lives in the area, said it was “pouring rain” Wednesday evening. She told The Telegraph of Macon that she and her husband heard a low-flying aircraft over their house and felt like something was wrong.
“It was flying really low,” Seabolt told the newspaper.
It wasn’t immediately known what caused the crash. McCarter said the NTSB’s investigation will look at the weather conditions, as well as the credentials and experience of the pilots and evidence collected about the helicopter itself and its maintenance history.
He said the NTSB should release preliminary findings on the crash within about two weeks.