Four Dead After Chopper Assisting in Fighting Wildfires Crashes near New Mexico’s Albuquerque

Four people were killed when a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter crashed while returning to Albuquerque after helping firefighters in another New Mexico city, officials said Sunday.

Sheriff’s officials said three people from the sheriff’s office and one county firefighter were on board the helicopter when it went down near Las Vegas, New Mexico, about 123 miles (197 kilometers) northeast of Albuquerque.

Those killed in the crash were Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and County Fire Department Specialist Matthew King, sheriff’s officials said.

The ages of the four men were not immediately available.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the Bell UH-1H helicopter crashed around 10 a.m. Saturday, but sheriff’s officials said it was around 7:20 p.m.

The cause of the crash is unknown and will be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

New Mexico State Police confirmed the crash and fatalities around 12:15 a.m. Sunday.

A helicopter and its crew were helping with the wildfires in the Las Vegas area on Saturday, helping to get bucket drops and other air logistics workers on the ground.

Sheriff’s officials said they are now working with the medical examiner’s office to recover the bodies of the four men and take them to Albuquerque.

Aerial video from KOAT-TV showed the wreckage of the helicopter between at least two desert bushes, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Over the past several days, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has used its Metro 2 helicopter to fight small fires in the East Mountains near Albuquerque and near Santa Fe, Albuquerque TV station KQRE reported.

“I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of four New Mexicans,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

โ€œWhile we await more details on the investigation, my office will provide any support and assistance to the Sheriff’s Office and the county. State resources will be fully available to assist the investigation.

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