Autopsies released in BCSO helicopter crash - Albuquerque Journal

Autopsies released in BCSO helicopter crash

Officials park near where a BCSO helicopter crashed near Las Vegas, N.M., in July. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Clockwise from top left, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue Specialist Matthew King. The four men were killed Saturday evening when a BCSO helicopter crashed near Las Vegas, N.M., in July.

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Recently released autopsies determined the three Bernalillo County deputies and one firefighter killed in a July helicopter crash all died as a result of blunt-force trauma.

The state Office of the Medical Investigator ruled the manner of death for Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren, 55, Lt. Fred Beers III, 51, Deputy Michael Levison, 30, and rescue specialist Matthew King, 44, as an accident.

On July 16, the four were flying back to Albuquerque on the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Metro 2 – with Koren as pilot – when the Bell Huey craft crashed in a remote area south of Las Vegas.

King was able to call for help and lead first responders to the crash site before dying from his injuries. It was the deadliest incident to befall law enforcement in New Mexico’s history and among the deadliest for first responders.

The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and a cause has yet to be released.

Koren’s autopsy found no incidental findings – such as a heart attack or other medical episode – that contributed to his death and no drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

Preliminary reports suggest there may have been a mechanical issue with the helicopter that led to the crash, according to the autopsy report.

Thousands attended the funerals for the four men, remembered as heroes who died doing what they loved.

BCSO lost its sole helicopter pilot in Koren and left the future of the Metro Air Support Unit in flux. The unit went on missions throughout Bernalillo County and other parts of New Mexico and, when it crashed, was returning home after helping to fight a fire near Las Vegas.

The agency announced on Thursday that it will be relaunching the Metro Air Support Unit on Nov. 14 using the remaining Metro 1 helicopter. The helicopter will take flight from Double Eagle II Airport.

In a September news conference, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said there was interest from personnel within BCSO to take on the role of pilot but none yet had a license to fly. At that time, Gonzales couldn’t say how long it would take before the unit is back in operation.

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