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Two Officers Die When Surveillance Plane Crashes in Colo.

A plane flown to look for illegal marijuana plantations in Colorado crashed in the San Isabel National Forest on Friday killing both occupants, one a Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputy and the pilot who was a retired Pueblo Police Department captain.

According to The Pueblo Chieftain, a local newspaper, the men who perished in the crash were Pueblo County Sheriff’s Captain Leide DeFusco and John Barger, a retired Pueblo police captain.

Although the sheriff’s office did not release the name, the identity of the sheriff’s captain was confirmed by a notice on the Officer Down Memorial Page web site.

The news release from the sheriff’s office said plane’s two occupants were searching the area for marijuana crops they had spotted two weeks previously when the plane went missing.

A search was launched and an air ambulance from Flight for Life spotted smoke and use that as a beacon to locate the crash site. The terrain made access to the location just north of Cisneros Trail very difficult to reach, the sheriff’s release said.

The men were in the area searching for potential marijuana grow that they spotted two weeks ago.

Flight for Life spotted the smoke and used that as a beacon to find the crash site.

The site of the crash was found in a terrain that was very difficult to access just north of Cisneros Trail in the San Isabel National Forest in Custer County. Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor told The Chieftain the site was near St. Charles Peak.

"We're all pretty devastated," a dejected Taylor told the media late Friday.

DeFusco had been a 21-year law enforcement veteran in the County of Pueblo, according to the sheriff’s website. He had served both the Pueblo police department and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. He was the overseer of the Patrol division and the Narcotics Unit within the Law Enforcement Bureau.

According to the newspaper, Barger, a flying enthusiast, retired from the Pueblo police department retired in 2009 after a 32-year career having retired as captain of investigations.

Barger and DeFusco were flying the mountain range searching for additional grow locations following an Aug. 15 raid of two marijuana plantations in Wet Mountains, according to the newspaper.

Sheriff Taylor told the media that contact with the plane, a single-engine Piper Super Cruiser, was lost at about 9:40 a.m. and at 7:10 p.m., rescue crews found the smoldering wreckage, about five miles below St. Charles Peak on National Forest land.

As many as 60 search and rescuers from the sheriff’s office, Custer and Fremont counties, the forest service and the FBI participated in the rescue effort. The medical helicopter was used to transport personnel into the site.

The sheriff’s office said the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) was notified and an investigation had been started. Recovery efforts were expected to resume Saturday morning.

According to ODMP, DeFusco is survived by his wife and four children.