LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A helicopter ambulance crashed early Tuesday amid the hills of central Arkansas, killing three crew members who were trying to reach a person injured in a traffic accident.
The Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter went down near the Scotland community in Van Buren County at around 4 a.m., according to the company and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Bell 206 helicopter, built in 1978, was registered to Air Evac EMS Inc., based in West Plains, Mo., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Air Evac spokeswoman Julie Heavrin said pilot Kenneth Robertson, flight nurse Kenneth Meyer, Jr., and flight paramedic Gayla Gregory all were killed in the crash.
Van Buren County Coroner Dorothy Branscum said the victims were killed on impact.
"I would say they might of seen it coming, but that was it. The helicopter was just melted and it was just in pieces," Branscum said.
The state medical examiner's office will perform the autopsies, she said.
The helicopter hit the ground just outside the yard of a home. Less than a mile away, people were camped out for the annual National Championship Chuckwagon Race scheduled for Friday.
Air Evac Lifeteam President and CEO Seth Myers said in a news release that the helicopter was equipped with night vision gear.
"This is a tragic day for us here at Air Evac Lifeteam," Myers said. "These were members of our family and we are devastated at this loss. Our focus at this time is on providing support for the family and friends of these crew members."
Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were traveling to the crash site, Lunsford said, who is based in the FAA's regional office in Fort Worth, Texas.
Lunsford said there apparently was no distress call and the cause of the crash wasn't immediately known.
Scotland is about 10 miles southwest of Clinton and some 80 miles north of Little Rock in central Arkansas.
Air Evac has experienced several fatal crashes in recent years.
In 2008, an Air Evac helicopter crashed in an Indiana cornfield killing three people. In 2007, another three-member crew was killed when an Air Evac helicopter crashed in Colbert County, Ala.
In 2006, an Air Evac helicopter crashed in Gentry in northwest Arkansas, killing a patient being transported and injuring the three-member crew.
Last month, an Air Evac helicopter made a forced landing near Tulsa, Okla., after the aircraft's hydraulics failed. No one was hurt.
(This version corrects that Gentry crash was fatal to a patient on board, not the crew.)