At about 1147 Central time, the helicopter was substantially damaged during ground impact. All three occupants—the pilot and two maintenance personnel—were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
While in cruise flight at about 1000 feet agl, the pilot radioed to ATC he had an emergency and would be immediately landing off the airport. Radar data provided by the FAA showed the helicopter in a descent prior to contact being lost. The wreckage was found about five miles southeast of the airport. The helicopter was consumed by a post-crash fire.
A witness, who was a helicopter pilot, observed the accident helicopter in a shallow descent as it passed just east of his house at about 600 feet agl. He stated the helicopter was producing an unusual, grinding noise as it passed over his house. On-scene investigation revealed that two tail rotor blades were missing. The missing tail rotor blades have not been located as of the date of this preliminary report.