One killed as TV news helicopter crashes in Houston

HOUSTON - Federal investigators hope to learn what caused a television news helicopter to crash, killing the pilot, setting a business on fire and toppling power lines.

National Transportation Safety Board officials Friday morning were investigating the crash scene on Houston's near-west side.

According to police Sgt. K.E. Wenzel, the KRIV-TV helicopter crashed into a hair salon and burst into flames about 10 p.m. Thursday in foggy conditions.

''The chopper started making large circles, and then all of a sudden fell out of the sky,'' said Wenzel, who witnessed the accident as he was leaving a nearby restaurant.

Authorities said the pilot was the only person on board. KRIV identified the victim as Donald Sumner, an employee of Helicopter Services Inc. Station officials said he had dropped off a photographer and was returning the helicopter to its overnight base, about 25 miles northwest of Houston.

The crash caused gas lines inside the salon to rupture, triggering a small fire. Police said no one was inside the building.

Several transformers blew, power lines were downed and electricity was cut to the area for a few hours.

A resident, Pleas Doyle, said the pilot appeared to have been trying to set the chopper down in a nearby parking lot.

''He deserves a lot of credit for not crashing into the neighborhood,'' Doyle said.


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