Jordan, U.S. pilots die in Williamson County helicopter crash

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A member of the Jordanian military and an American pilot were killed in a small helicopter crash in northeast Williamson County Tuesday afternoon, according to the Jordan Armed Forces.

The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the pilot as Michael Hawley, 58, of Dothan, Alabama, and the Jordanian co-pilot as Ahmed Khawaldeah, 27. 

The crash happened next to County Road 346, which is off State Highway 95 between Circleville and Granger, around 12:30 p.m. 

A translated release from the Jordan Army posted Wednesday on its website says First Lt. Ahmed Ali Mohammed Khalif al-Khawaldeh died during a training trip in Texas. A U.S. Army pilot was also killed. The military says it formed a joint investigative body with the U.S. 

The Federal Aviation Administration says the helicopter, a Hughes H369FF, with two people onboard departed from Georgetown airport around 12:15 p.m. and crashed approximately 15 miles east of the airport. 

According to preliminary reports, the helicopter hit a power line and crashed into a cotton field and caught on fire. 

Janet Preston, who lives nearby, said the lights in her bathroom flickered around that same time. She went to her living room and saw a “mushroom cloud” of black smoke rising from the field across the street.

“The first thing you think of is a house fire,” Preston said. “We went through the Bastrop fires and so a lot of those homes and fires were so hot that they exploded, and that’s what it reminded me of.”

Another neighbor, Phillip Wagner, did not witness the crash either, but he walked outside shortly after it happened when he heard sirens. He said he saw heavy black smoke coming from the crash site, and he immediately suspected that an aircraft had crashed. 

“We have a lot of air traffic around here because of the lake. People like to sight-see around it,” Wagner said, “but it’s unusual to have [a helicopter] flying low like that.” 

Neighbors said their thoughts are now with the loved ones of the two people killed aboard the helicopter. 

“My heart goes out to them and the family,” Wagner said. “The family’s now got to deal with loss, so it’s pretty sad.”

Several people who work at the Georgetown Municipal Airport told KXAN they knew the two people who were killed in the crash. They say it’s a huge loss to their community.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating. 

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