Fatally injured New Mexico helicopter crew member called 911

Jul 20, 2022, 12:27 AM | Updated: 12:37 pm

CORRECTS DATE TO SUNDAY, JULY 17,  2022, NOT MONDAY, JULY 18, 2022 - Investigators and first respon...

CORRECTS DATE TO SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2022, NOT MONDAY, JULY 18, 2022 - Investigators and first responders gather at a helicopter crash site, Sunday, July 17, 2022, near Las Vegas, N.M., about 123 miles (197 kilometers) northeast of Albuquerque. Four people have been killed in a crash of a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was headed back to Albuquerque after assisting firefighters in another New Mexico city, authorities said. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — One of the four first responders killed in last weekend’s New Mexico helicopter crash managed to call 911 before succumbing to his injuries, according to emergency dispatch recordings.

It’s not clear which crash victim made the call Saturday evening to San Miguel County dispatchers, according to the recordings that were made public on Tuesday. The call sparked a frantic search for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in the hills near the northern New Mexico community of Las Vegas.

An unidentified dispatcher said over emergency frequencies that the person who calling said they saw dust when the helicopter hit the ground but no smoke or flames. The person also reported that gas was leaking from the aircraft, which was full of fuel because the crew had refueled before taking off for the trip home.

Searchers took more than 30 minutes to find the wreckage, their work complicated by nightfall and increasing difficulties that the initial survivor had in communicating, the dispatch records indicated.

“Subject is in a lot of pain and disoriented,” a dispatcher said at one point.

State police officers who arrived at the scene first initially reported there were two unresponsive patients and two who had died.

Authorities have said that the helicopter crew had wrapped up a firefighting mission and were returning home to Albuquerque when the crash happened. They had spent a few hours that afternoon dropping buckets of water on a wildfire burning on private land near Las Vegas.

The crew included Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue Specialist Matthew King.

The National Transportation Safety Board said earlier this week that the helicopter came down at a high rate of speed, hitting the ground upright before toppling over. Aerial footage of the scene showed mangled wreckage among pinon and juniper trees.

Federal investigators are expected to release a preliminary report about the crash in a the coming weeks and the full investigation could last a year or more.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Fatally injured New Mexico helicopter crew member called 911