4 dead in Duke Life Flight helicopter crash in eastern NC

BELVIDERE, North Carolina (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Highway Patrol said four people are dead in a Duke Life Flight helicopter crash in Perquimans County near Belvidere in eastern North Carolina.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a Eurocopter MBB-BK went down around 11:30 Friday morning near Swamp Road and Sandy Cross Road close to the Amazon US Wind Farm East wind turbine complex.

The Perquimans County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

Following the incident, Duke Health officials issued this statement:

"With deep sorrow we can confirm that a Duke Life Flight helicopter crashed early this afternoon near Belvedere, North Carolina. We are in the process of directly confirming information related to this incident and will share more information as it becomes available."

Authorities said the helicopter was flying to Duke Medical Center from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center when it crashed.

Duke University Hospital President Kevin Sowers said they are mourning the loss of two staff nurses, a pilot, and a patient.

The Duke employees have been identified as R.N. flight nurses Kris Harrison and Crystal Sollinger and pilot Jeff Burke.

The helicopter and its crew were based at Johnston Regional Airport, airport officials said.

"Our county's leadership joins many others around the region and the state in expressing our great shock and sadness over today's tragedy," said Jeff Carver, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. "Our hearts, minds and prayers are with the families of those who were on board the Duke Life Flight aircraft, and we offer them our condolences and support in the difficult days, weeks and months ahead."

To honor the deceased, Duke University lowered their flags Friday evening.

Duke University Hospital has grounded their Life Flight service until further notice.

Duke has a fleet of aircraft to transport patients in need of critical care.

The sheriff's office has yet to release the names of those involved or how the crash occurred.

However, Sheriff Shelby White said an eyewitness claims they saw smoke coming out of the chopper as it was hovering before it crashed.

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