PERQUIMANS CO., N.C. (WVEC) -- A spokesman for North Carolina State Highway Patrol said a Duke Life Flight medical helicopter crashed Friday, killing four people.
The Perquimans County Sheriff's Office confirmed the incident happened at the intersection of Swamp Rd. and Sandy Cross Rd. in Belvidere at about 11:30 a.m.
The helicopter departed from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City and was carrying a patient to the Duke University Medical Center when it crashed.
Mary Bartlett was the patient who died.
The crew members who were killed were pilot Jeff Burke and registered nurses Crystal Sollinger and Kris Harrison.
The Perquimans County Sheriff's Office handed over the investigation to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Sentara Albemarle Medical Center released a statement about the crash:
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our patient and the dedicated professionals from Duke Life Flight. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the patient who was lost and to those closest to the crew members. We also extend our sincere sympathies to Duke University Medical Center on the loss of their colleagues. This tragedy reminds us of the devotion of healthcare professionals to the service of others.
Coleen Santa Ana, President
Sentara Albemarle Medical Center
Jarvis Miller's farm is less than two miles from where the helicopter crashed.
"Black smoke was pouring out of the engine, and it just gradually went down until it crashed,” said Miller. "The way it went down, as hard as it went down, and then you had an explosion, you knew it wasn't good."
He said the smoke was too thick to see the wreckage.
"Just black, just like you were burning diesel fuel or something like that."
The news of the crash was an emotional punch in the chest for many living in the rural community.
"What a tragic thing when I heard what it was, a life flight helicopter helping someone, crashing like that it, was tragic,” said Keith Nowell.
Nowell has lived in Perquimans County his entire life. This is the worst thing he can remember happening. He couldn't help but walk to the crash site.
"I probably got within a few hundred yards,” said Nowell. “Couldn't see nothing from where I was, apparently it was just a big charred area what was left.”
As for Miller, he says Friday's events could have even been worse considering the homes scattered throughout the area.
“You see what happened when it hit the land, it blew up, so if it would have hit a home it would have blew the house up and if anybody was in it they would have died,” said Miller.
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