CONROE, Texas – A news helicopter carrying a pilot and television photographer crashed in a state forest Monday, killing both occupants, authorities said.
The men were covering a shooting in Montgomery County, north of Houston, for KTRK-TV, the ABC affiliate in Houston, when their helicopter went down in the W.G. Jones State Forest, said state Department of Public Safety Sgt. Kenneth Hiebert.
It was not immediately clear what caused the 11:30 a.m. crash, but authorities from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were en route to begin investigating, Hiebert said.
But it was a devastating scene. Other television news helicopters broadcast footage of the pile of smoldering debris at the foot of a burning tree. The helicopter had shattered into pieces, with the station's logo partially visible on one part.
"Most of it burned" after impact, Hiebert said.
There were a few houses nearby, but no houses were affected by the flames and smoke, which were extinguished by early afternoon.
The aircraft, owned by Helicopters Inc., was a Bell 206L4, company spokeswoman Seva Kaiser told the Houston Chronicle. She said she did not know how old the helicopter was.
The company was founded in 1978 and leases aircraft to about 70 news organizations around the country.
The station issued a statement mourning the loss.
"All of us at KTRK-TV are deeply saddened by the tragic accident involving SkyEye 13 and our hearts go out to the families of the pilot and the photographer," station spokesman Tom Ash said in a written statement.