On Saturday, July 16, 2022, a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) helicopter crashed in Las Vegas, New Mexico, killing three BCSO employees and one Bernalillo County Fire Department employee.
The victims of the Bernalillo County Sheriff helicopter crash have been identified as 55-year-old Undersheriff Larry Koren, 51-year-old Lieutenant Fred Beers, and 30-year-old Deputy Michael Levison. All three men worked for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. The fourth victim, 44-year-old Rescue Specialist Matthew King, worked for Bernalillo County Fire Rescue.
Authorities say the Bell UH-H1 helicopter departed from the Double Eagle Airport in Albuquerque at approximately 2:00 p.m. local time to perform bucket drops and provide other air logistics to help fight the East Mesa Fire in Northern New Mexico. The Bernalillo County Sheriff helicopter known as “Metro 2” arrived at the fire about an hour later and executed about 20 bucket drops before landing and serving various hotspots as directed by ground crews.
Metro 2 later flew to the Las Vegas, New Mexico airport to refuel before returning to the fire to perform more bucket drops. After 6:00 p.m. local time, the helicopter went back to the Las Vegas, New Mexico airport to refuel and made preparations to return to Albuquerque. The chopper departed the airport at approximately 6:36 p.m.
Less than an hour later, Bernalillo County Sheriff helicopter crashed in the hills south of Las Vegas. Evidence shows that the chopper plummeted to the ground at a fast rate, initially impacting the ground upright. However, the helicopter ended up mangled and in multiple pieces after impact.
Bell Helicopter Crash Data
As of July 2022, Bell helicopters have been involved in over 7,000 accidents and incidents. More than 1,200 of these accidents resulted in fatalities. The Bell UH-1H model has been involved in 44 accidents or incidents, including 18 that were fatal. Forty-seven people have died in Bell UH-1H crashes and incidents.*
*These statistics do not include military helicopter crashes
Victims of Bernalillo County Sheriff Helicopter Crash
Undersheriff Larry Koren, 55: Mr. Koren was a pilot who had worked with the BCSO for more than 23 years. Mr. Koren campaigned as the Democratic nominee for sheriff earlier this year. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Lieutenant Fred Beers, 51: Mr. Beers had been with the BCSO for more than 13 years. His colleagues remember him as a hard-working public servant who volunteered with the Special Olympics and put others first. He is survived by his wife, son, father, and two sisters.
Deputy Michael Levison, 30: Mr. Levison had worked with the BSCO for four years. Levison had been a member of the Air National Guard since 2011. His service brought him to the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Israel, and Virginia. Levison is survived by two brothers, one of whom is also a BSCO deputy, his parents, and his girlfriend.
Rescue Specialist Matthew King, 44: Mr. King was a paramedic with 17 years of experience. He was also a part-time instructor in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program at Central New Mexico Community College from 2010 to 2020. Mr. King had been with Bernalillo County Fire Department for 11 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Cause of Bernalillo County Sheriff Helicopter Crash
The cause of the BSCO helicopter crash in Las Vegas, New Mexico is under investigation. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are leading the investigation. A preliminary report on the crash is expected within a month of the crash date. A final report, which will include the cause (or causes) of the crash, as well as any relevant safety recommendations, will take at least a year to complete.
NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told the media after the fatal New Mexico crash that weather did not appear to be a factor, even though afternoon and evening thunderstorms are prevalent in Northern New Mexico during monsoon season. Knudson said the investigative team will examine the flight tracking information to get a better idea of the helicopter’s flight path prior to the crash. He added that officials “will look at everything as part of the investigation.”
Helicopter crash lawyer Timothy A. Loranger has represented victims and their families in numerous helicopter crash cases, including those involving Bell helicopters. According to Loranger, the amount of pilot experience in the cockpit combined with the helicopter seeming to descend at a high rate are red flags for possible mechanical failure.
“These men had a combined 50 years of experience working for the county,” says Loranger. “Undersheriff Koren had flown for BCSO for over two decades. While it is early in the investigation and there is still much we don’t know, the nature of the helicopter’s descent hints at mechanical failure is a possible cause.”
Bell Helicopter Crash Lawyer with Proven Track Record
The award-winning law firm of Wisner Baum has built a track record of success in helicopter crash litigation. We have successfully represented victims and their families in numerous cases stemming from Bell helicopter crashes, including:
- Bell 407 medical helicopter crash near McFarland, California (2015)
- Bell AH-1W Cobra Attack helicopter training flight crash at Camp Pendleton, California (2011)
- Bell 206B JetRanger tourist helicopter crash in Hawaii (2003)
- Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter crash in Cottage Grove, Minnesota (1999)
- Bell 205A1 medical helicopter crash in Los Angeles, California (1998)
- Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter crash in Kahului, Hawaii (1996)
- Bell 206L3 LongRanger medical helicopter crash near Durango, Colorado (1992)
- Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter crash near Mt. St. Helens, Washington (1991)
Since 1985, the attorneys at Wisner Baum have settled more than 150 aviation cases for $1 million or more. Our team knows what it takes to go up against major helicopter companies and win. Across all areas of practice our lawyer team has won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements, including over half a billion for aviation accident clients.
To speak with an experienced helicopter crash lawyer about your case, please fill out our contact form or give us a call at (855) 948-5098. We offer free and confidential case evaluations. No fees unless we win.