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Family mourns Durham veteran killed in West Virginia helicopter crash

<i>WRAL</i><br/>A Durham family is grappling with grief tonight after a deadly helicopter crash killed their loved one.
A Durham family is grappling with grief tonight after a deadly helicopter crash killed their loved one.

By Chelsea Donovan

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    CHARLESTON, West Virginia (WRAL) — A Durham family is grappling with grief tonight after a deadly helicopter crash killed their loved one.

The aircraft crashed Wednesday during its last planned flight at an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts in Logan County, West Virginia. All six people aboard were killed.

The flight crashed about 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) northeast of the Logan County Airport. Much of the wreckage was consumed in a fire that followed the crash, the agency said.

Durham resident Don Sandoff was inside with 5 others Wednesday afternoon.

Sandoff’s son Carl told WRAL News his dad flew while serving in the army – stationed for years at Fort Bragg.

“He loved flying,” said Carl.

Last week, Sandoff traveled to West Virginia to attend an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts.

Sandoff posted a video of the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter just days before the fatal flight.

The helicopter went down along a 2-lane road in Logan County, West Virginia, south of Charleston.

Bobby Child, who lives right down the road, rushed to the scene to try to save those on board.

“When we got there the helicopter was on fire,” said Child. “I ran as fast as I could go. The fire was so hot and so intense, [they] didn’t make it out of there.”

69-year-old Sandoff is survived by 4 children and 8 grandchildren.

“He was a family man, family meant the world to him,” said Carl. “Don was a loving husband, father and grandfather … He will be greatly missed by many people.”

West Virginia’s chief medical examiner released the names of all six victims on Saturday. They are:

John Nagle, 53, of Austin, Texas Donald Sandhoff, 69, of Durham Kevin Warren, 51, of Franklin, Tennessee Carolyn O’Connor, 73, of Winter Garden, Florida Marvin Bledsoe, 64 Jack Collins, 65, both of Chapmanville, West Virginia It’s still unclear who was in the pilot seat.

Rides on the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter were offered by the organizer of the reunion, MARPAT Aviation, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

During the reunion event, visitors could sign up to ride or fly the historic helicopter, described by organizers as one of the last of its kind still flying.

The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, “The Knights of the Sky,” in Vinh Long, Vietnam, throughout much of the 1960s, according to MARPAT. After the Huey returned to the U.S., it was featured in movies like “Die Hard, “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory.”

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