One killed in Pima County helicopter crash

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FILE - A photo of the helicopter operated by the Pima County Sheriff's Department. By Bryce Potter FILE - A photo of the helicopter operated by the Pima County Sheriff's Department. By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The only helicopter operated by the Pima County Sheriff's Department crashed Monday morning northwest of Tucson.

Deputy Jason Ogan, a spokesperson for the department, says one of the four on board was killed.  Pima County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Pilot Loren Leonberger was pronounced deceased at the scene.  He's been with the department since 2008.

The three surviving passengers of the crash are at University Medical Center.  The full extent of their injuries is unknown.  One is considered critical.  Two of the crash victims were reportedly able to extract themselves from the crash under their own power.  Their names will be released pending notification to the families. 

The incident happened near the intersection of Waterman Mountain Road and Silverbell Road.  The area is part of the Ironwood National Forest.

Emergency crews from the department and from Northwest Fire responded to the scene. 

The crash site is located about halfway up the side of a mountain.  Numerous helicopters were over the scene by a little after 1 P.M. working on the rescue of the four people.

Officials at the scene told Fox 11 News Reporter Brian Roberts that two of the people on board are civilian employees of Pima County.  The chopper was helping them identify locations for future radio towers to facilitate radio communications in the area.

The MD530FF helicopter was purchased by the department in 2008.   It was built in 1998.

National Transportation Safety Board records show that the same helicopter was involved in another crash in 2004. In that incident the aircraft was fighting a fire in hawaii when the helicopter crashed into a tree.

The NTSB will have a team in tucson tuesday to take over this crash investigation.