Border Patrol Pilot Dies in Texas Crash
Funeral information below
Posted: May 25th, 2007 04:17 PM EDT
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SAN ELIZARIO, Texas --
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter crashed in a residential area during a routine patrol along the Mexican border Tuesday, killing the pilot and critically injuring another person on board.
The helicopter slammed into a yard and hit a pickup truck.
Robert F. Smith, a 16-year veteran with the agency's air unit, was pronounced dead at a local hospital, said Michael Wimberly, director of air operations for the agency in El Paso.
Steven Takacs, a Border Patrol observer who had been with that agency four years, was in the intensive care unit in stable condition, Wimberly said.
No one on the ground was hurt.
Juan Chavez, 95, said he saw the helicopter crash into the yard behind his nephew's house and ran to help with the rescue.
The chopper was broken in two pieces, and both people on board were unconscious with head injuries, Chavez said. One of the crew members regained consciousness during the rescue effort.
"We told him he was OK and to hang in with us," said Chavez, a retired colonel from the Army Air Corps.
Another witness to the crash, about 10 miles east of El Paso, said the helicopter appeared to be coming from New Mexico when it suddenly started having trouble.
"They were flying along real good, then there was a snapping, popping noise," said Wayne Weaver, 47. "You could hear a light hum, then like a thunk." Then the helicopter disappeared and he heard a "boom," Weaver said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
Visitation for Agent Smith will be held Monday, May 28 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sunset Funeral Home-West, 480 North Resler, El Paso, Texas.
A prayer service will be held at 6:30 p.m. during visitation at the funeral home.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, May 29 at 10 a.m. at Western Hills United Methodist Church, 524 Thunderbird Drive, El Paso, Texas.
Interment will follow at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, 5200 Fred Wilson Boulevard, Fort Bliss, Texas.
Memorial Fund Information
Make Checks Payable to:
Robert Smith Memorial Fund
Wire Transfers to:
State National Bank
601 N. Mesa
El Paso TX 79901