N.M. FF, 3 sheriff's office employees killed after helicopter crashes

Rescue Specialist and Paramedic Matthew King of Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue and three sheriff's office members had been assisting with the East Mesa Fire

Duty Death: Matthew Anthony King - [Albuquerque, New Mexico]

End of Service: 07/16/2022


Updated at 3:28 p.m. July 18, 2022: 

Sean Thomas
The Santa Fe New Mexican

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Three people from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and one Bernalillo County Fire Department employee were killed Saturday night when the helicopter they were on crashed.

The four were headed back to Albuquerque in their Metro-2 helicopter after assisting crews with the East Mesa Fire, the sheriff's office tweeted early Sunday. The National Transportation Safety Board's media account tweeted that the crash took place near Chapelle, which is located about 18 miles south of Las Vegas.

They had been assisting with "providing bucket drops and other air logistics needs to fire crews on the ground," according to the sheriff's office. There were no survivors.

The four dead are Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers and Deputy Michael Levison from the sheriff's office, and Rescue Specialist Matthew King of Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue.

Koren had just ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County Sheriff in June.

The specific cause of the crash was unknown as of Sunday afternoon.

"Today we are working with the Office of the Medical Investigator to recover the fallen from the crash site and escort them to Albuquerque," according to a post on the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

As of about 3 p.m., first responders from various agencies were escorting the four down I-25 back to Albuquerque.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was heartbroken by the news.

"These were four dedicated public servants who were doing what first responders do day in and day out: working tirelessly to serve and protect their fellow New Mexicans," she said in a statement. "On behalf of the people of New Mexico, I extend my deepest gratitude to these four brave individuals, and my deepest sympathy to their families, friends and colleagues."

Few others details were available Sunday. The sheriff's office, New Mexico State Police, Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are all involved in the investigation, with the NTSB taking the lead, according to a spokesman for the FAA.

The sheriff's office said it plans to hold a press conference in the coming days.

"To ensure the continuity of the information being published in the media, we are not currently answering individual inquiries," the office said in a Facebook post. "Rather, we are providing unified official press releases such as this one. Please remain patient and be assured we will provide updates on a regular interval."

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Sunday morning an investigator was en route to observe the scene. He added a preliminary report wouldn't be available likely for another two weeks, with a final report taking one to two years.

"It is a very rigorous process," he said.

Early Sunday morning, condolences from state and local officials started to roll in.

"I am heartbroken to hear of the helicopter crash that tragically took the lives of Bernalillo County first responders who were bravely assisting with the East Mesa fire," said Attorney General Hector Balderas. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this very difficult time."

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller tweeted he was "heartbroken to hear about this tragic incident."

"These responders are stepping up to help their fellow New Mexicans and we will forever be grateful for their dedication to public service and our community," he said.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted the crash was "extremely tragic," and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan said he was praying for the lives lost in the crash.

"Sending my support to the families and Albuquerque community," Lujan tweeted. "My office is monitoring the ongoing investigation."

Bernalillo County District 5 Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty said she was "absolutely devastated."

"Holding loved ones in my heart," she tweeted, followed by an image of a broken heart.

"Our hearts are broke by the tragic and distressing news that we lost four of the state's finest public servants, killed in the line of duty," New Mexico Department of Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie said in a statement. "It's a sacrifice no one should have to make."

A spokesman for the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office could not be reached for comment Sunday, but around 2 a.m. the department tweeted out that it "could use all the prayers it could get."

Seven hours later, the office sent out another tweet: a broken heart.

___

(c)2022 The Santa Fe New Mexican

Original article: 

By Matthew Reisen
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

LAS VEGAS — Three people from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and a Bernalillo County firefighter were killed Saturday when a BCSO helicopter crashed near Las Vegas, the agency said.

BCSO spokeswoman Jayme Fuller said those onboard their helicopter Metro 2 were heading back to Albuquerque after assisting firefighters with the East Mesa Fire.

"There are no known survivors," she said. "At this time the investigation into this incident is in its preliminary stages. As we learn further details, we will provide them through official press releases."

BCSO tweeted "we need all the prayers we can get right now" above a picture of a black band across a sheriff's office badge.

Authorities did not identify those who died, say what led to the crash or give any other details.

New Mexico State Police, on Twitter, confirmed the crash around 12:15 a.m. on Sunday.

News of the crash drew an outpouring of sympathy.

State Department of Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jason Bowie said the four people who died in the crash were heroes.

"Today, our hearts are broken by the tragic and distressing news that we lost four of the state's finest public servants, killed in the line of duty," Bowie said in a statement. "It's a sacrifice no one should have to make."

Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty posted on social media that she was "absolutely devastated."

And Albuquerque police Chief Harold Medina tweeted, "Prayers for our brothers and sisters in the county and all those affected by the loss suffered as a result of this tragic accident."

(c)2022 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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