Identities released after deadly helicopter crash in Sam Houston National Forest

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – A firefighter was killed when a helicopter crashed Wednesday during a controlled burn operation in the Sam Houston National Forest, according to authorities.

The helicopter was contracted by the United States Forest Service to help with two burns that were scheduled Wednesday.

Authorities said the pilot, Morgan J. Kozloski and a passenger, Kelly Callahen, survived the crash and were taken to an area hospital in stable condition. The passenger who died was a United States Forest Service firefighter. He has been identified as Daniel J. Laird, 41.

Officials said the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter crashed "under unknown circumstances" around 2 p.m. near the intersection of Bethel Road and FM 149, in northwest Montgomery County.

One burn was planned for 1,583 acres near the intersection of FM 1375 and FS 233 in Walker County. The other burn was planned for 969 acres south of FM 149 near FS 219 in Montgomery County.

Authorities said the helicopter crashed very close to one of the controlled burn areas.

"It’s sad. It’s a sad moment right now," Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Erik Burse said.

Jesse Snyder, who was visiting the running trails in the area, said he has seen the smoke from controlled burns make visibility difficult.

"They’re usually pretty safe, so it’s a rare tragedy. It could be a really dangerous job what they do, I’m sure. Just driving down the road it gets thicker than fog sometimes," Snyder said.