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Friday, August 12, 2005
Pilot Who Was Shot Down in Sheriff's Helicopter Says He Will No Longer Fly
By Carolyn Carlson
Journal Staff Writer
A helicopter pilot shot down over Albuquerque's West Side on Saturday said he is hanging up his wings.
"My flying days are over. I have a full-time job and flying was a hobby," Chris Holland, 43, said Thursday in an interview from his University of New Mexico Hospital bed. "I think I'll take up fly fishing."
Holland served in the Gulf War and in Iraq earlier this year. But it wasn't until a routine flight over Albuquerque that gunfire struck his helicopter, forcing him to crash land.
"I knew there were risks, but I never thought being shot down was one of them," Holland said of his contract job with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.
Early Saturday morning, Holland and sheriff's Deputy Ward Pfefferle were in Metro One, the department's helicopter, assisting ground deputies in a burglary call.
At 12:17 a.m., when Metro One was circling near the intersection of Paradise and Golf Course, someone fired a gun at the helicopter, Sheriff Darren White has said. Holland and Pfefferle said they heard a loud pop. Holland then made an emergency landing in the backyard of a Paradise Hills home. A bullet hole was found in the cockpit window.
Pfefferle, a nine-year veteran with the Sheriff's Department and a navigator with the Air Unit for three years, praised Holland's quick reflexes in bringing the helicopter down safely.
"We fell from the sky, and, thanks to Chris, we landed softly," Pfefferle said at the hospital.
Holland said once he realized the helicopter was going to go down, there was no time to think, only react.
"I received the best training in the world in the military," Holland said. "It was all reflex."
Holland is a contract pilot for the Sheriff's Department and an attorney for Sutin, Thayer and Browne PC.
Holland is expected to be in the hospital another day or so to treat a severe wound to his left leg, White said. Pfefferle was taken to the hospital, treated and released.
On Thursday, Mayor Martin Chávez along with White and Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz recognized Holland and Pfefferle as heroes. Chávez gave both certificates and medals.
"It is fitting that they are recognized as heroes," Chávez said.
Holland said he didn't think of himself as a hero.
He served as a pilot in the Army National Guard during the Gulf War. He recently spent 10 months as an Army reservist in Iraq, returning to Albuquerque in February.
Holland's mother, Carol Lamm, said she was at home in Oklahoma with Holland's daughter, Alana, 9,, who was visiting, when she got a call.
"I did not tell Alana until the morning, and I was so glad to be able to tell her that her father had called to say he was OK," Lamm said.
Holland's wife, Maureen, said she was in San Antonio when she got the call. She said their son, Flynn, 16, was at home in Albuquerque at the time.
"I was real proud of him and how he handled everything," Maureen said.
She said she is happy Holland is grounding himself.
"I never said anything before because I knew how much he loved flying," Maureen said. "But after this, I said 'no more.' ''
"We are lucky he is still alive," she said. "I hope whoever shot them down gets caught."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 980-2496 or Crime Stoppers at 843-Stop.