BRUCEVILLE-EDDY, Texas – Living close to President Bush's ranch, the Eickes have become accustomed to helicopters buzzing their house. But this time, the sounds were different.
"It sounded like a big tree cracking, like something from Paul Bunyan," Delia Eicke said. "Then I heard the explosion." Her husband, Rock, added: "I knew it was the tower. My first thought was that the damn thing was falling."
He quickly called 911.
The Army helicopter hit a web of support wires on a TV transmission tower early Monday before going down in a fiery crash, killing all seven people aboard. The tower itself was not hit. The victims were a brigadier general and six other soldiers, all from the 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Hood.
Lights on the tower had stopped working early last week when strong storms hit the area, said Jerry Pursley, general manager of Waco-Temple-Killeen television station KXXV, which owns it.
The station notified the Federal Aviation Administration (search). FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said the agency sent a notice last Wednesday to a computer database on potential hazards checked by pilots before they fly. Hundreds of such notices are issued every week around the country, he said.
The helicopter, bound for the Red River Army Depot (search) in Texarkana, went down about 30 miles northeast of Fort Hood. The fog was so thick at the site that when emergency crews arrived that they could not see more than halfway up the tower, authorities said.
The UH-60 Black Hawk (search) was headed to check out equipment being readied for use in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.
The dead were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 David H. Gardner Jr., 32, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark W. Evans Jr., 27, the helicopter's pilots; Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen (search), 49; Col. James M. Moore, 47; Capt. Todd T. Christmas, 26; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas V. Clapp, 48; and Spc. Richard L. Brown, 29. Hometowns weren't immediately available.
Allen was the 4th Infantry Division's assistant division commander for support, while Moore was commander of the Division Support Command.
The main part of the fuselage went down in a field about 200 to 300 yards from the tower, McLennan County constable Ken Brown said. The site is at the highest point in McLennan County, with 30 different towers within a five-mile radius, officials said.
The Black Hawk, which the military began using in 1979, is the Army's main troop transport helicopter. It can carry 15 people.