Helicopter crashes during search for missing hunter in Alabama; 3 crew members killed

Robert Gretz, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Northeast Region, delivers remarks on a fatal helicopter crash, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007 in Barton, Ala. An Air Evac helicopter crashed while hovering over a lost hunter Sunday, killing the pilot and two passengers. (AP Photo/The Times Daily,Daniel Giles)

TUSCUMBIA, Ala. (AP) – A helicopter conducting an aerial search for a missing hunter crashed in thick woods early Sunday, killing all three people on board moments after they had found the man.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, said Jeff Davis, a manager of Air Evac EMS of West Plains, Mo., the company that owns the aircraft.

The helicopter crew had spotted the hunter, and the crash occurred as the aircraft was hovering over him, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Warren Woodberry.

The hunter was eventually rescued. Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May said the hunter had disappeared after dark Saturday in the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area, a 31,572-acre state hunting preserve.

The hunter was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life threatening, the sheriff said.

Emergency officials identified the victims as pilot Michael Baker and crew members Allan Bragwell and Tiffany Miles.

The victims were “our family members, and we are devastated at this loss,” Air Evac President and CEO Colin Collins said in a statement Sunday.

Air Evac has helicopters based in 12 states. In addition to providing air ambulance services, it often helps local law enforcement agencies with search-and-rescue missions free of charge, said company spokeswoman Julie Heavrin.

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On the Net:

Air Evac: http://www.lifeteam.net/