Two people were killed when a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in Rowlett Friday morning, police say.
The helicopter, a Robinson R44, was headed west when for some reason it came down in an empty lot along the 2200 block of Lakeview Parkway, east of Dexham Road.
Video shared on social media appears to show the helicopter spinning out of control and falling with part of its tail boom and other pieces of the aircraft separated from the rest of the cabin.
“Witnesses said that the helicopter was crashing to the ground, that the rear rotor had separated from the helicopter and that the helicopter was dropping and spinning," said Rowlett Police spokesperson Cruz Hernandez.
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Witnesses on the ground said they knew something wasn't right.
"We seen the helicopter going real slow and my wife says man that doesn't look right," witness Scott Ussery said. "It started swinging a little bit and going down lower and it started going out of control."
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After hitting the ground, the helicopter caught fire with the pilot and a passenger trapped inside, police said. The tail rotor landed on a nearby building.
Workers at a nearby business heard the crash and tried to help.
"We saw smoke and we tried to help," witness Andrew Reyna said. "We tried to grab some fire extinguishers but it was too dangerous. We couldn't get too close because of heat and the blaze."
Firefighters at the scene surrounded the debris with an improvised tarp to shield the remains of the aircraft from the roadway.
“This is just a horrific accident. Obviously, the helicopter has separated in flight," said aviation lawyer Ladd Sanger.
Throughout his career, Sanger's worked on cases involving Robinson helicopters along with other aircraft.
"There can be a number of causes for the main rotor system cutting off the tail boom, some of them are pilot error," said Sanger.
In other cases, he said separation can happen due to a helicopter defect.
That's what investigators will work to determine when the NTSB arrives in Rowlett Saturday morning.
The investigation into the crash is in the early stages and officials have not revealed any further information about the crash, aircraft, or those who were on board.
The FAA and NTSB are leading the investigation into the crash.
The helicopter was owned by Sky Helicopters. NBC 5 contracts with Sky to fly our helicopter, Texas Sky Ranger.