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The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report into a helicopter crash that killed four first responders in northern New Mexico last month.
The report does not say what caused the July 16 crash, but it did provide more details. A full report could take one to two years.
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire Department rescue specialist Matthew King died at the scene. The four men had been helping crews fight the East Mesa fire outside of Las Vegas and were on their way home to Albuquerque when they crashed.
According to the report, the helicopter fueled up and left the staging area at 7:15 p.m. and its last data point was recorded five minutes later, about a half-mile east of where it would crash.
Two people who were watching the sunset from a nearby ridge “reported the helicopter flew past their location westbound, then rapidly descended without making any turns,” the report states. “A large plume of dust occurred when the helicopter impacted the ground.”
The report states that when investigators arrived, the tail rotor tip cap was partially buried in the ground and the left and right skids were 38 feet and 77 feet from where the helicopter hit the ground. The main wreckage was 160 feet away and the tail boom was 20 feet away.
Funerals for the four men were held this week and last week.