Fog may have been factor in helicopter crash that killed four in Alabama

A law enforcement helicopter searches for two escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility on Friday, June 12, 2015, near Dannemora, N.Y.

ATLANTA - Poor weather will be one area of focus for federal investigators trying to determine what caused a medical helicopter to crash in southeast Alabama, killing all four people aboard, a federal authority said Monday.

The chopper crashed in the pre-dawn hours Saturday in the Goodman, Ala., area - about 80 miles south of Montgomery - after picking up a patient from the scene of a highway crash.

"The weather was described as inclement, foggy," said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. "We will be getting more specifics about visibility and the weather conditions thehelicopter would have been encountering."

The aircraft was found in a heavily wooded and marshy area, and the plan Monday was to recover the wreckage from the remote area, Knudson said.

"Once they are able to get the helicopter to dry, higher ground, they will work on documenting the components of the wreckage," he said.

Killed in the crash were the pilot, a flight nurse, a flight medic, and the patient.

The helicopter had been called after a motorist struck a ditch and a utility pole in a one-car vehicle crash about 11 p.m. Friday, Trooper Kevin Cook was quoted by the Dothan Eagle as saying. The helicopter took off with the motorist, and was reported missing at 12:17 a.m. Saturday. The wreckage was later discovered about a half-mile from the scene of the vehicle crash, the newspaper reported.

Metro Aviation Inc. of Shreveport, Louisiana, which operated the helicopter for an Alabama ambulance company, issued a statement Monday saying that the company "places safety at the top of our priority list" and that a company response team is assisting federal authorities with the investigation.

It will likely take several months or as much as a year or longer for the NTSB to determine the cause of the crash, Knudson said.