Sunday, August 09, 2020

Bell 206B JetRanger III, N284S: Fatal accident occurred August 08, 2020 in Marathon, Brewster County, Texas

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas
Rolls-Royce Engines; Indianapolis, Indiana
Bell Helicopters; Hurst, Texas

Location: Marathon, TX
Accident Number: CEN20LA328
Date & Time: 08/08/2020, CDT
Registration: N284S
Aircraft: Bell 206
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Aerial Observation

On August 8, 2020, at an unknown time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N284S, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Marathon, Texas. The pilot was seriously injured, and the three passengers were fatally injured. The flight was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 91 aerial survey flight.

The flight's mission was to conduct aerial survey of desert bighorn sheep in the Texas Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. When the helicopter did not return for refueling at the expected time, a search was initiated. The wreckage was located about 1200, by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department personnel who notified authorities.

The pilot reported to the first responders that about 5 minutes before refueling; the helicopter was about 800 ft above ground level when he felt a slight vibration. He informed the passengers he would be conducting an emergency landing. The vibration intensified and he was losing maneuverability, the vibration got worst. The helicopter lost lift and impacted terrain short of the intended landing area. The pilot stated that the engine never stopped producing power.

The helicopter pilot was not in contact with air traffic control.

The wreckage will be recovered to a secure location for a detailed examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N284S
Model/Series: 206 B
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Southwest Heliservices Llc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KE38
Observation Time: 1135 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 72 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 200°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious

Latitude, Longitude: 30.191667, -103.210278 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Brewster County Sheriff's Office

Saturday morning, Brewster County Deputies responded to a remote location, in Southeastern Brewster County, to investigate a helicopter crash. The pilot was flown to Alpine, by DPS aircraft, and treated for injuries. The three passengers were deceased. The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office, Texas DPS Aircraft Operations, Texas Parks and Wildlife, US Border Patrol, Marathon Volunteer Fire Department, and civilian volunteers assisted with the incident. The FAA and the Sheriff’s Office are investigating this incident. Our condolences and prayers are with the families of the individuals onboard.

Texas Buck Registry

Both Dewey Stockbridge and Dr. Bob Dittmar were personal friends of ours, and they will be greatly missed, not only because of the top notch work they did in service of Texas wildlife, but also because of the men they were and the integrity they carried. God speed to both of these men, and the others involved in the crash.

Three employees of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were killed in a helicopter crash Saturday while conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep, according to officials.

The three people killed were identified as biologist Dewey Stockbridge, wildlife technician Brandon White and veterinarian Bob Dittmar, according to a Sunday press release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident," Carter Smith, executive director of TPWD, said in the statement.

"These men were consummate professionals, deeply liked and highly regarded by their peers and partners alike for the immense passion, dedication, and expertise they brought to their important work in wildlife management and veterinary medicine," he said.

The helicopter pilot, a private contractor, survived the crash and was transported to a hospital in El Paso, according to the statement. TPWD did not release any information on the cause of the crash.

The group was flying over TPWD's Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County to conduct research on the desert bighorn sheep. The area borders Big Bend National Park and spans over 100,000 acres, according to TPWD.

Texas wildlife officials have been instrumental in restoring numbers of desert bighorn sheep after the population decreased due to disease and unregulated hunting, according to TPWD, which estimated the bighorn's population in Texas at 1,500 in 2018.

Stockbridge worked on conservation of the species for several years. In 2016, during an interview with Outside Magazine, he spoke on the importance of managing the herds.

"When you reintroduce desert bighorn in a landscape such as Elephant Mountain here, it's really a trickle down effect," he said. "There are numerous other species that benefit from them being reintroduced to certain mountain ranges."

Officials conduct aerial surveys throughout the year to monitor population size and observe the animal's behavior.

Dittmar joined the TPWD as the agency's first-ever staff veterinarian in 2014, according to the agency. Previously, he assisted in various projects with the agency and was in private practice in Kerrville, northwest of San Antonio.

"My wife's telling everybody that I'm going to be making sure that my grandkids and great grandkids have wildlife to enjoy in the future," Dittmar said in an interview with TPWD in 2014. "I'm going to be a part helping to ensure that our wildlife populations are healthy, and looking at it more from a veterinary medical standpoint than strictly a management and biological standpoint."

The Texas Department of Public Safety, Federal Aviation Administration and Texas Game Wardens are investigating the crash.

"Our hearts ache today for those who died in this tragic accident," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.


  1. I met Dewey a couple of times on youth hunting trips out there. He came across as a real professional that loved what he was doing. RIP to him and the others, and best wishes for the pilot's recovery and healing.

  2. Doctor Dittmar was our veterinarian for years before leaving the practice to pursue this dream job. Very sad news. Caring and passionate about all animals, especially the Bighorn Sheep.