Names of 4 killed in helicopter crash near Las Vegas released

·3 min read

Jul. 17—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. 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.

The specific cause of the crash was unknown as of Sunday afternoon, according to the sheriff's office.

"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 sheriff's office Facebook page.

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 immediately available Sunday. The sheriff's office and New Mexico State Police are investigating; state police said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are also looking into it.

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. "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."

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for the FAA said the NTSB would take the lead on the investigation and provide further updates as they become available.

Peter Knudson, spokesman for the NTSB, said 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 around 9:45 a.m. that he was "heartbroken to hear about this tragic accident."

"Theses 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. Ben Ray Lujan tweeted that he was praying for the lives lost in the crash.

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

This is a developing story. Check back for more information.