EAST TROY, WIS., AUG. 27 -- Grammy-winning blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and four other people were killed early today when the helicopter in which they were flying slammed into a hill in dense fog after leaving a concert, authorities said.

The other victims were members of rock star Eric Clapton's entourage and the helicopter's pilot.

Clapton, who played with Vaughan and guitarist Robert Cray at the concert Sunday night, arrived safely in Chicago on another helicopter. He said the victims, including his agent, bodyguard, and tour manager, "were my companions, my associates and my friends. This is a tragic loss of some very special people."

Clapton's manager, Roger Forrester, told Britain's Sky News: "We had four helicopters, and Eric and I were in one directly behind it when it suddenly disappeared from vision.

"Obviously we were not aware of the tragic circumstances until the early hours when daybreak broke and they discovered it on a ski slope directly behind the building in which we had just performed."

Vaughan, 35, who overcame a drug problem in 1986 to win two Grammy Awards and the Musician of the Decade honor in his home state of Texas, gained popularity in the mid-1980s with his guitar jamming and blues sound, borrowing much from music legends B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Albert King.

"Stevie Ray Vaughan was like one of my children, and I felt a great loss when I heard the news," B.B. King said in a statement. "The loss is a great loss for blues music and all fans of music around the world. He was just beginning to be appreciated and develop his potential."

Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy, a longtime friend of Vaughan who had participated in Sunday night's concert, choked back tears after learning about the crash.

"He was one of the greatest I ever met. My head ain't right yet," said Guy. "He played the blues like he wanted to play the blues, he played and put blues in places that we, even Muddy Waters, didn't do."

"He was a great musician and a very good friend," Cray said. "I'm shocked at what happened."

"This is the worst accident to happen to Texas music since Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper {J.P. Richardson} went down in the '50s," said Casey Monahan, director of the Texas Music Office in Austin, where Vaughan got his musical start. "It's a hole no one can fill."

Andy Schwartz, a spokesman for Epic Records in New York, which owns Vaughan's label, said Vaughan had toured this summer with blues singer Joe Cocker. His latest record, made with brother Jimmie, is scheduled to be released next month.

Schwartz said Jimmie Vaughan had been at the weekend concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theater, an open-air stage and ski resort near East Troy, 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

"They were really looking forward to the release of the record, had completed some video and were having some discussion about touring as the Vaughan Brothers," Schwartz said.

Vaughan had a platinum album with his band Double Trouble in "Couldn't Stand the Weather," released in 1984. In 1985, he shared a Grammy Award for best traditional blues recording with several other artists for a compilation album called "Blues Explosion."

This year, he won a Grammy in the contemporary blues category for "In Step."

Guitar Player Magazine cited Vaughan as the Best Electric Blues Player in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988, finally naming him to its "Gallery of the Greats" in 1989. He also was named this spring as Musician of the Decade by the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Tex.

Bill Bruce, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, owned by Omni Flight Helicopters Inc., slammed into the hill in dense fog, but he was not certain if weather contributed to the accident.

"It was a high-energy impact at a shallow angle," he said.

The Civil Air Patrol began a search for wreckage several hours after the crash when an automatic signal was picked up by a passing satellite, authorities said.

Deputies found the wreckage about 7 a.m. It was scattered over 200 feet, according to authorities.

Dominic Scaffidi, a National Weather Service forecaster, said fog had reduced visibility overnight to less than two miles in parts of southern Wisconsin, a condition requiring pilots to fly by instruments rather than sight.

Among those killed was Bobby Brooks, 34, Clapton's agent at Creative Artists Agency, whose clients also included Crosby, Stills & Nash, Whoopi Goldberg, Pat Benatar, Jackson Browne and Dolly Parton. Other victims were Nigel Browne, a Clapton bodyguard, and Colin Smythe, one of Clapton's tour managers, Clapton's statement said.

The pilot was identified as Jeff Brown by the Walworth County, Wis., coroner. Clapton's publicist, Ronnie Lippin, said there was no truth to a report that Vaughan had begged to get on the helicopter that crashed because it would arrive at its destination earlier.