Three wildlife researchers were killed in a helicopter crash in West Texas while they were conducting an aerial survey, officials said.
Wildlife biologist Dewey Stockbridge, fish and wildlife technician Brandon White and state wildlife veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar were researching desert bighorn sheep in Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County on Saturday when their helicopter crashed, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a statement.
The pilot, a private contractor, survived the incident and was rushed to an El Paso hospital, the agency said. His condition was unknown as of Sunday evening.
Carter Smith, the TPWD executive director, said in a statement the three researchers spent years documenting and studying the state's wildlife.
"No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident," he said in a 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."
Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texans to remember the researchers in their thoughts.
"Our hearts ache today for those who died in this tragic accident," he said in a statement.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Game Wardens are investigating the crash.