Police Helicopter Pilot

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Filtering by Tag: rescue helicopter

Helicopter Crash on Guejito Ranch Promts Multi-Agency Response

R44 4 seat helicopter, photo courtesy of Cal-Fire Valley Center.At around 1430 hours on Sunday September 20th, an emergency call went out that a helicopter had crashed on the Guejito Ranch in northern San Diego County.  The two occupants of the R44 piston powered 4 seat helicopter, survived the crash and used a cell phone to call for help.  Initial reports were that both occupants sustained injuries and needed assistance.

A San Diego Sheriff's patrol helicopter crewed by Pilot S. Rea and TFO G. Kneeshaw arrived on scene and began a search for the downed aircraft.  The helicopter was subsequently located in an remote area inaccessible to vehicles. 

Deputy Kneeshaw embarked on foot to contact and assist the injured occupants while Deputy Rea got back into the air to direct in the responding Cal-Fire and Sheriff's patrol units. 

Due to the remote location it was quickly determined that both victims would need to be evacuated by way of a hoist rescue ship.  A San Diego Sheriff's Fire/Rescue helicopter piloted by Deputy T. Weber, with an all Cal-Fire hoist crew, responded along with two Mercy Air medical helicopters.  Basket lifts were conducted on both patients by the crew of Copter 10, before they were handed off to Mercy Air for the medical transport.  Both patients are expected to fully recover from their injuries.

Initial information at the scene indicated that the helicopter may have been in a low orbit when the engine lost power and the helicopter suffered a hard landing.  The helicopter did suffer significant damage to include the tail boom becoming separated from the aircraft.  Unconfirmed reports are that the helicotper was new, with only 130 hours of total flying time.  According to the Robinson Helicopter website a new R44 Raven II helicopter retails for $404,000.

PHP staff spoke to the manager of Guejito Ranch, a working cattle ranch and the largest of the original Spanish Land Grants still in existence in California today.  The ranch manager confirmed that this is approximately the 6th air crash on the ranch in the past 2 years.  He further confirmed that his level of frustration with air crashes and low flying helicopters buzzing cattle is at an all time high.  

Low flying helicopter pilots would be smart to avoid the Guejito Ranch as a training area.  

Police Helicopter Pilot.com wishes a speedy recovery to the injured flyers. 

Los Angeles Sheriff's Helicopter Called Upon to Transport Body of Pop King

So there I was on my day off, watching some of the breaking coverage of the untimely death of Mr. Michael Jackson when into the picture swoops a rather large green helicopter with the word "Sheriff" on the side.  The reporter began explaining that the helicopter was there to transport the body of Michael Jackson from the hospital to the Coroners officer due to the clogged streets and throngs of people who had gathered at the hospital.

I must admit that the my very first thought was that this was really "over the top" and that someone somewhere was making an even bigger spectacle out of Mr. Jackson's death than what circumstances called for.  Not to take anything away from Michael Jackson, but to send a very large rescue helicopter at tax payers expense to transport his remains, seemed to be playing right into the media hype and extravagance. 

It was not long however before I realized that it was probably a very smart decision which solved a huge problem for a number of high level decision makers in numerous Los Angeles City and County Departments, (Police, Sheriff, Public Works, Coroner, etc.).  The problem was blatantly obvious.  How do you get Mr. Jackson's body from the hospital to the coroners office without bringing the surrounding city streets to a standstill, and really creating a spectacle.  Not only do helicopters save lives, but they solve problems, and the presence of this helicopter and crew surely helped in solving a few logistical problems that suddenly befell the county and city governments yesterday.

So just who was this helicopter and crew that received world wide media coverage when they were called upon to transport Mr. Jackson's body?

While I don't have exact names it appears to be the Los Angeles Sheriff's "Air Rescue 5" unit flying one of their Sikorsky H3 Sea King helicopters.  The Air Rescue 5 program provides search and rescue capabilities for Los Angeles County California and is arguably one of the most elite civilian helicopter operations in the world.  Each H3 Sea King is staffed by two deputy sheriff pilots, one sergeant/crew chief, and two Emergency Service Detail deputy paramedics. 

I guess even in the air unit you never know what the day will bring when you show up to work for the start of your shift.

TFO Survives, Pilot and Hiker Confirmed Dead in New Mexico State Police Helicopter Crash

On Tuesday evening just after 9:00 pm a New Mexico State Police helicopter landed near the 12,000 foot level of Santa Fe Baldy to rescue a female hiker who had become separated from her party.  The hiker, Megumi Yamamoto (a student at the University of New Mexico) called 911 from her cell phone around 5:30 pm to report that she had become separated from her boyfriend while hiking.

The high altitude equipped police helicopter was piloted by Sgt. Andy Tingwall (36) with Officer Wesley Cox (29) performing the Tactical Flight Officer duties.  Yamamoto was eventually located and loaded onto the helicopter for a flight back to Santa Fe.  Shortly after take off the pilot radioed that they had "hit the mountain."  State police dispatch asked if they were ok, and the pilot reportedly responded "not really."  This was that last transmission from the helicopter crew. 

Police officials believe the crash most likely occurred on the north west ridge of Santa Fe Baldy, an area described as rugged and inhospitable. 

Additional rescue helicopters were launched but were unable to reach the crash location due to adverse weather, low visibility and snow storms. 

Search and Rescue Crews hiked through the night in an attempt to reach the crash site, but still had not reached the scene by mid morning.  The weather continued to keep rescue helicopters from locating the crash scene, although they were able to pick up the ELT (emergency locator transmittor) emitted by the helicopter. 

At around 12:45 pm on Wednesday afternoon search crews located the TFO Wesley Cox, who though injured, had hiked over a mile down the mountain toward help.  In addition to injuries from the crash, Cox was suffering from severe hypothermia.  Officer Cox was hoisted off the mountain by a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter, with paramedics on board, and flown to a regional medical center for treatment.

Officer Cox was able to provide fellow officers with the first accounts of the crash.  One New Mexico Telivision Station reported that Officer Cox indicated the helicopters tail rotor may have struck something as they lifted off.  However, other reports indicated that the helicopter may have crashed several minutes after take off. 

Officer Cox did tell his rescuers and investigators that he believed he was the only survivor.  Cox indicated that all three occupants were ejected from the aircraft as it rolled down the mountainside.  He was able to locate Yamamoto and check her vital signs, but concluded she was deceased.  Officer Cox apparently maintained voice contact with Sgt. Tingwall for a period of time, but presumably could not locate him in the dark.  He also told investigators that he crawled back inside the helicopter where he spent the night taking shelter from the snow storm.  

By late Wednesday evening some searchers had reached the crash site and located the fuselage and debris field, but had yet to locate eithere Yamamoto or Sgt Tingwall. 

Authorities have yet to report the make of helicopter that crashed.  A number of news outlets showed photos of what appeared to be a New Mexico State Police Eurocopter "Astar", however the New Mexico State Police official website shows a picture of an Agusta A Power 109 (twin turbine) helicopter which it says is capable of high altitude rescues. 

It was also reported that Sgt. Tingwall's wife is a dispatcher with the New Mexico State Police and was on duty at the communications center when the accident occurred. 

Police Helicopter Pilot.com will continue to follow this story, and sends it's prayers to Sgt. Tingwall, Ms. Yamamoto and their families, and wishes a speedy recovery to Officer Cox.