Harrison County

2 dead, 1 injured after helicopter crashes during controlled burn in Saucier

SAUCIER -- Two people are dead and one is severely injured after a U.S. Forest Service helicopter crashed Monday near the intersection of Airey Tower and Martha Redmond roads.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove confirmed two of the helicopter's occupants died in the crash.

Authorities were still working to remove the two bodies from the wreckage by about 5 p.m. and eventually did so before nightfall.

The crash occurred roughly a mile southwest of Airey Tower and Martha Redmond roads.

Harrison County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan said he believes the aircraft was a contract helicopter being used by forestry personnel to monitor a control burn in the area.

"There were crews on the scene immediately," he said. "These guys who work forestry are professionals. They train in first aid, they train for eventualities like this, so from that standpoint, that's an asset to the person that was injured."

He said the sole survivor of the crash suffered severe trauma and was taken by helicopter to the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.

Eddie Baggett, prescribed fire specialist for the Forest Service, said the three on the helicopter were contract workers.

"We lost radio contact and somebody called me on the radio and said we may have an incident," Baggett said. "Usually, I'm talking to them all the time. We've got an ambulance on the way."

Baggett lost contact with the crew shortly before 3 p.m.

A LifeFlight medevac helicopter arrived near the scene about 4 p.m. EMT units with American Medical Response were seen transporting one of the victims into the helicopter.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will arrive on scene today to begin an investigation, Hargrove said.

The controlled burn involved 800 acres along the Harrison and Stone county lines.

Sullivan said fire crews were called in from several areas, including Keesler Air Force Base, to extinguish some remaining hot spots in the area.

As of Monday evening, officials had not yet confirmed the identities of the victims or the cause of the crash.

Hargrove said autopsies would be performed today.

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