Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cochise County Sheriff's Office gets new helicopter

This December 2015 photo provided by the Cochise County Sheriff's Office shows a new helicopter nicknamed "Geronimo," used by the sheriff's office in Benson, Ariz. The launch of the new chopper comes one year after a fatal crash in which two people were killed while operating helicopter leased by the sheriff’s office.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Cochise County Sheriff's Office has launched a new helicopter one year after the one it leased crashed, killing two.

The New Year's Eve 2014 crash near Benson left a Navy veteran and retired police officer dead after the team was returning from getting routine maintenance in the Phoenix area and encountered bad weather.

The sheriff's office is now working with a new leasing company and will be using a new helicopter that's much bigger and has more capabilities, spokeswoman Carol Capas said.

Capas said the department had been relying on air support from federal and state agencies and that having its own unit will be extremely helpful in such a large and sparse county.

It was particularly difficult for deputies who had to respond to remote areas that take too long to get to on car, she said.

"With our air support we are going to be able to launch at any given time and we're gonna be able to get there much quicker in some cases," she said.

The helicopter will also be used for emergency situations. For example, Cochise County sits on the border with Mexico and is regularly used by drug smugglers.

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is covering the entire cost of operating the helicopter for the first year, Capas said. Capas said that the agency will review the air program at the end of the year and that it doesn't have funds to support it on its own.


Bell 206-L4, N57AW, Cochise County Sheriff's Department:  Fatal accident occurred December 31, 2014 in Benson, Cochise County, Arizona 

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA072
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 31, 2014 in Benson, AZ
Aircraft: BELL 206, registration: N57AW
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 31, 2014, at 1710 mountain standard time, a Bell 206 L4, N57AW, collided with terrain 7 miles west of Benson, Arizona. The commercial pilot and pilot rated mechanic were fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to N57AW LLC, and operated by Airwest Helicopters as 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 positioning flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a company visual flight rules flight plan. The flight originated form Glendale, Arizona, at 1550, and was destined for Sierra Vista, Arizona.

The operator reported that the helicopter had not arrived at its destination and that the Sky Connect Tracking System indicated that the helicopter was at a stationary location between Tucson and Benson. The Cochise County Sheriff located the helicopter wreckage about 2030 at the location the Sky Connect system was reporting. The helicopter was fragmented into multiple pieces along a 174-foot-long debris path. Witnesses living in the local area reported hearing a low flying helicopter around the time of the accident, and that the visibility at ground level was very limited, with low clouds and fog.

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