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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The bodies of a pilot and two medics killed when a medical helicopter crashed into Laguna Madre near South Padre Island, Texas, have been recovered and identified.
The helicopter crashed Tuesday night during a 30-mile trip from Harlingen to South Padre Island to pick up a patient, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said. The helicopter had just called off its trip because of bad weather when it went down, so there was no patient aboard.
“They turned around because of high wind then lost communication with the dispatcher,” said Lt. j.g. Ben Sparacin, spokesman for Coast Guard Corpus Christi Station, which assisted in the search.
Cameron County Justice of the Peace Bennie Ochoa identified the victims Wednesday as pilot Robert Lamar Goss, 54, of San Benito; and medics Raul Garcia Jr., 40, of Weslaco, and Michael T. Sanchez, 39, who had a post office box in San Benito.
Ochoa said autopsies would be conducted on the victims.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters located the crash site about 2 1/2 miles west of South Padre Island.
The Coast Guard was maintaining a secure perimeter around the crash site Wednesday and a local salvage crew would be recovering the helicopter, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will be handling the investigation, Sparacin said.
The helicopter was part of the Valley AirCare emergency service.
A representative of Valley Air Care referred phone calls from The Associated Press to Metro Aviation, which he said was the aircraft’s operator. A woman who answered the phone for Metro Aviation said the company had no comment.Mike Baird contributed to this report.