3 Texas Parks and Wildlife employees die in helicopter crash

BREWSTER COUNTY, Texas — Three employees of the Texas Parks and Wildlife department died Saturday in a helicopter crash, officials confirmed.

“No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident,” Carter Smith, the department’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “Wildlife conservation in Texas lost three of its finest as they so honorably and dutifully carried out their calling to help survey, monitor and protect the bighorns of their beloved west Texas mountains,” Smith added.

The employees were conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep when the crash occurred, KHOU reported.

The victims were identified in a Sunday news release issued by the department as biologist Dewey Stockbridge, wildlife technician Brandon White and veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar.

The pilot survived the crash and was transported to an El Paso hospital, but no information has been released regarding the cause of the crash, CNN reported.

“Our hearts ache today for those who died in this tragic accident. Cecilia and I are deeply saddened by this loss and we extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims. I ask all Texans to keep these families in their thoughts and prayers,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a prepared statement.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Game Wardens are currently investigating the incident, KHOU reported.