By Jack Fink


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ELLIS COUNTY (CBS11) – CBS11 has learned federal investigators will be looking into whether a Bell Helicopter that crashed and caught fire during a test flight, killing two on board, broke apart while in the air.

The FAA and NTSB, the lead investigative agency, spent Wednesday afternoon at the scene in a field along FM 876 north of Bell Branch Road.

Investigators are looking into the possibility of an in-flight break up because of the wreckage scattered in the area.

The debris is scattered as much as 1,500 feet away from the crash site.

The chopper’s tail is among the pieces away from that area.

Experts say investigators will also be looking to see if the chopper’s design played a role in the crash.

Bell says the model that crashed is a twin-engine B-525.

Cecil Randall lives nearby in the town of Five Corners.

He says while he didn’t see the helicopter crash, he did hear a chopper before the crash.

“It sounded extra loud,” said Randal. “It didn’t sound right. It sounded like he was lower than normal or whatever. But it wasn’t enough for me to step out and look up at it.”

A power pole near the area is blackened from the smoke of the wreckage.

Sgt. Lonny Haschel of the Texas Department of Public Safety said, “Preliminary information was that the aircraft struck a power pole. But that was not the case. The aircraft simply crashed in the pasture. The FAA and NTSB will be conducting the investigation.”

As of Wednesday evening, Bell Helicopter hasn’t identified its two employees killed in the crash.

In a statement, Bell said, “This is a devastating day for Bell Helicopter. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our teammates and have reached out to their families to offer our support.”
Company representatives flew to the scene to help investigators.

Bell Helicopter placed video of its new model B-525 on its website last July, after its first flight.

In its news releases, Bell says this model has next generation engine technology, fly by wire controls, and a new composite five blade rotor system.

Bell has said it hoped to have the B-525 certified for flight next year, but that schedule may be delayed because of the crash.

Ellis County authorities say they will be stationed at the crash site all night long Wednesday.

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