By Peggy Harris
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A helicopter crashed in central Arkansas on Sunday, killing a state conservation officer who was patrolling for violators of a ban on deer hunting at night.
Sgt. Monty Carmikle, 45, was in the Game and Fish helicopter when the Vietnam-era craft went down in a field northeast of Quitman about 1 a.m., said commission spokesman Keith Stephens. The contract pilot, Jerry Fryar of Ozark, was taken to a hospital. His injuries were not considered life-threatening. The two men were the only ones aboard the helicopter.
The cause of the crash was not known, Stephens said. Officials were to interview the pilot.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the crash site about 60 miles north of Little Rock. They had the Bell OH-58 helicopter moved to a hangar at the North Little Rock airport, Stephens said.
Deer season began a week ago and wildlife officers routinely patrol for hunting violators, using the agency's one helicopter. Stephens said the agency had heard that someone was hunting in the dark for deer, shining a light on the animals which makes them stop in their tracks. Carmikle and Fryar began patrolling by air while other officers worked from the ground.
"It's my understanding they (Carmikle and Fryar) actually saw some headlights, and they were going down to try to see where they could head these guys off before they got out of the woods," Stephens said.
That's when the helicopter crashed in a cow pasture on a farm off Arkansas 25, about five miles from Quitman.
"It appears that it landed very hard. The rotor broke off and the fuselage buckled," Stephens said. "It was still up on its struts but they had caved a little bit. It was still upright. It never flipped over."
The winds were calm at the time and the officers on the ground told Stephens they did not hear the crash or see what happened.
"Several officers helping in the operation, as soon as they realized what happened their focus was to get over there and help them," Stephens said. "They (the hunters) obviously got away."
Carmikle, of Heber Springs, had worked for the state agency since the summer of 1985. He was the first wildlife officer to die in the line of duty since two officers died in a plane crash in the 1970s, Stephens said.
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