ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Four people have died after the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office’s “Metro 2” helicopter crashed Saturday afternoon near Las Vegas, NM. BCSO confirmed the crash in a news release early Sunday morning, saying preliminary information indicates there are no survivors.
Sunday afternoon, BCSO announced the names of those on the aircraft as Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison, and from Bernalillo County Fire Rescue, Rescue Specialist Matthew King.
New Mexico State Police say its investigators are now working alongside federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to look into the cause of the crash. A BCSO spokeswoman, Jayme Fuller says the helicopter and its crew were “headed back to Albuquerque after assisting fire crews with the East Mesa Fire.”
BCSO frequently uses its helicopter to provided aerial firefighting and other assistance across New Mexico, particularly this fire season. In the past week, BCSO used the Metro 2 helicopter to fight a small fire in the East Mountains near Albuquerque, and the Atalaya Fire near Santa Fe.
“At this time the investigation into this incident is in its preliminary stages,” said BCSO Spokeswoman Jayme Fuller in an email statement Sunday morning. “As we learn further details, we will provide them through official press releases. Please keep these individuals and their families in your thoughts and prayers tonight.”
Data from an online flight tracking tool FlightAware indicates the Metro 2 helicopter, N911SZ, last recorded a position around 2:32 p.m. Saturday “near Las Vegas.” BCSO also operates a second helicopter, N911ZZ, which was not involved in today’s operations.
Reacting to news of the crash, local and state leaders offered messages of condolence Sunday. New Mexico’s Department of Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie said, in part, “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. It’s a sacrifice no one should have to make.” APD Police Chief Harold Medina wrote on Twitter, “Prayers for our brothers and sisters in the county and all those affected by the loss suffered as a result of this tragic accident.”
Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty wrote on Twitter, “I am absolutely devastated. Holding loved ones in my heart.” Calling it a “terrible loss,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wrote, “These responders were stepping up to help their fellow New Mexicans and we will forever be grateful for their dedication to public service and our community.”
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement on the crash Sunday, says in part, she is heartbroken by the loss. The Governor says the state will offer the full availability of any state resources to assist in the investigation.
“These were four dedicated public servants who were doing what so many of our first responders do day in and day out: working tirelessly to serve and protect their fellow New Mexicans,” the Governor said. “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.”