Helicopter pilot killed in crash remembered for devotion to faith, family

Photo provided by Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office -- Patrick Becnel, a former pilot for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office, was killed Wednesday when a private helicopter he piloted crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, about 30 miles northeast of Venice just after takeoff from an oil rig.
Photo provided by Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office -- Patrick Becnel, a former pilot for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office, was killed Wednesday when a private helicopter he piloted crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, about 30 miles northeast of Venice just after takeoff from an oil rig.

A pilot killed this week when his helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Mexico was a former pilot for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, remembered for his devotion to faith and family.

Patrick Becnel, 47, died Wednesday at West Jefferson Medical Center after the Bell B206 he was piloting went into the water about 30 miles northeast of Venice. The crash happened immediately after taking off from an oil platform about 7:25 a.m.

A preliminary autopsy found that Becnel, who was working as a charter pilot for Panther Helicopters of Belle Chasse, drowned after he suffered multiple blunt-force injuries in the crash, said Mark Bone, the Jefferson Parish coroner’s chief investigator.

Two of the helicopter’s three passengers, whose shifts offshore had just ended, were injured. They worked for Wood Group PSN, a Houston-based energy company.

Becnel, of Jesuit Bend, was a helicopter pilot for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office for eight years.

Now a private pilot, he also was a citrus farmer, president of the Jefferson Parish Farm Bureau and a deacon at St. Patrick Catholic Church.

“He was a model of great faith to his parishioners,” Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco said in a written statement. “The devotion displayed by Patrick will always be remembered.”

“His life touched the hearts and lives of many people,” Becnel’s family said in a statement.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.