Multiple agencies are helping with the investigation of an Air Evac helicopter crash stationed out of Duncan, Oklahoma near downtown Wichita Falls within blocks of United Regional Health Care System that claimed the life of a patient on board early Saturday morning.
Wichita Falls Fire Chief Jon Reese said a helicopter carrying three crew members and one patient out of Waurika, Oklahoma crashed near the intersection of Ninth and Grace streets while trying to transport the patient to United Regional for life-threatening injuries around 1:56 a.m.
A city of Wichita Falls news release posted on Facebook said the aircraft was a Bell 206 LongRanger III operated by the Air Evac Lifeteam.
Reese said the patient died at the scene. The pilot of the helicopter is at United Regional in serious, but stable condition. The flight nurse and flight paramedic were flown to the Burn Unit at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas. They are both in critical condition.
"The names of the victims are being withheld right now pending notifications," Reese said. "The crews are pretty tore up, families are devastated. This is a serious accident."
Reese said the aircraft crashed onto the street and right next to a parking lot, but no damage was done to any nearby buildings. The Air Evac team stationed at United Regional first responded to the scene and saved the inbound pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic from the wreckage.
Reese said crews arriving at the scene found burning wreckage of the then still intact helicopter. Only pieces of the aircraft's frame remain.
"(The Wichita Falls Air Evac team) was here and I believe its their policy that when they have an inbound flight, they assist with unloading the patient," Reese said. "So they were ready when the aircraft went down and they were first on the scene. They made a heroic effort in saving their co-workers."
The city's news release said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to be on scene by daybreak.
"We're in the very early stages of piecing things together right now," Reese said. "Right now we're just securing the scene. DPS is in charge of the investigation of all aircraft accidents."
Reese said the Wichita Falls Police Department had eight units at the scene blocking off a secured perimeter with help from the Wichita County Sheriff's Office and the Archer County Sheriff's Office during the investigation's early stages.
The Wichita Falls Fire Department had two units on scene, and all assisting agencies are sharing a joint unified command post. Sheppard Air Force Base also came in to assist by supplying a high-pressure crash vehicle for accidents involving aircraft vehicles.
While no damage was done structurally, Reese said there is a power outage in the area that Oncor is working to get restored.
"There was damage to the primary power lines running through the area," he said. "There is a loss of power in probably the one or two block area. One of the places affected was the North Texas Dialysis Center nearby. We're working with Oncor to get (the power) back going so treatment for the patients can continue."
Travelers should have no problem making it around the area, Reese said. Access to the hospital and the emergency room is open, with only Ninth Street blocked from Brook Avenue to Holliday Street, along with nearby side streets. He expects the crash site to be blocked off for the next day or two as the investigation continues.
The WFFD's chaplain has been on scene since the investigation began assisting law enforcement workers, as well as Air Evac crew members and families, Reese said.
"We're all trying to help each other on this, and there's a lot of agencies involved," he said. "but there's a lot of families involved as well."
More information will be released as it is made available.