ELLIS COUNTY, Texas - Two people are dead after a state-of-the-art experimental helicopter crashed near Italy in Ellis County Wednesday afternoon.
The crash happened around noon in a field off FM 876, just north of Bell Branch Road. DPS confirmed the two people who were on board were killed in the crash.
Video from SKY 4 showed debris scattered across the field and smoldering wreckage just below charred power lines.
One witness says he watched the helicopter burst into flames in the air and then fall to the ground.
"I heard a helicopter come over, sounded like it was low, but it just didn't sound right to me," said resident Cecil Randall. "But we ignored it because that's what we always do because there's so many. Then we find out that there was a crash."
Bell Helicopter said the chopper involved was the Bell 525, which was being tested out of its Xworx facility in Arlington. The same helicopter had its first successful flight this time last year. At least one other helicopter registered to Bell landed safely at the scene.
Bell Helicopter confirmed their two employees in the helicopter were killed in the crash but have not released their identities. A family member identified one of the pilots as Jason Grogan of Burleson, Texas.
The company says it was a fly-by-wire helicopter, meaning it is all electronic, has the first fully-integrated touch screen electronics system and can perform precise takeoff and landing procedures at its maximum weight. The standard size holds two pilots and 16 passengers and can travel up to 186 miles per hour.
However, flight records show the aircraft that took off at the Arlington airport an hour before the accident was traveling 229 miles per hour when the crash happened.
A spokesperson for the American Helicopter Society International says Bell Helicopter just broke a speed record for corporate helicopters this year, reaching 230 miles per hour.
In a statement, the company 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. Bell Helicopter representatives are onsite to assess the situation and provide any assistance to local, state, and federal authorities. At this time we ask for your understanding as we work through all of the details.
The NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash.