Aug. 10 (UPI) — Three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees died in a helicopter crash over the weekend, officials said.
In a statement on Sunday, the department said biologist Dewey Stockbridge, Fish and Wildlife Technician Brandon White, and State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar died Saturday when their helicopter crashed in Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County, about 305 miles southeast of El Paso.
The trio of passengers was conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep when the incident occurred, the department said.
The pilot, a private contractor who was not named, survived the crash and was transported to El Paso for treatment, the statement said, without elaborating on the severity of the injuries.
The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that officers responded to reports of a helicopter crash in a remote location Saturday morning, adding officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Operations, the TPWD, U.S. Border Patrol and civilian volunteers assisted in the incident, the circumstance of which were not released.
Carter Smith, the executive director for TPWD, said the entire department sends their condolences to the families affected and will pray for the health and recovery of the pilot.
“No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident,” Smith said. “These men were consummate professionals, deeply liked and highly regarded by their peers and partners alike for the immense passion, dedication and expertise they brought to their important work.”
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Sunday, stating “our hearts ache today for those who died in this tragic accident.”
“I ask all Texans to keep these families in their thoughts and prayers,” he said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Game Wardens are investigating the incident, the department said.