Watch Calif. Sheriff's Chopper Airlifted after Scary Emergency Landing

Dec. 13, 2022
Muddy conditions made access to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office helicopter difficult, and another aircraft was called in to hoist the downed chopper to a trailer a few yards away.

By Rosalio Ahumada

Source The Sacramento Bee

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office STAR V helicopter was airlifted from its landing spot southeast of Rancho Cordova to a waiting trailer a day after making an emergency landing.

The airlift was arranged to pull the EuroCopter EC120B from the southeast Sacramento County field for repairs after it made a “hard landing.” The open space, pelted by rain through the weekend, made access to the aircraft difficult because of muddy conditions. The helicopter landed upright on its skids, which sustained some minor damage.

About 1:45 p.m., a UH-1H Huey helicopter from A&P Helicopters from Richvale hoisted the sheriff’s aircraft a few yards away to a trailer after its rotor blades were removed. The aircraft will be transported to a repair facility.

It’s not known when the helicopter will be back in service; the cause of the emergency landing also wasn’t known Monday.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Amar Gandhi said neither the pilot nor the tactical flight officer suffered any injuries. They did not require any medical attention or a trip to a hospital.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Gandhi told reporters, “the fact they both walked away is a win in all of our books.”

There were only two deputies onboard the helicopter when it was forced down just after 2 p.m. Sunday while on routine patrol. One of the deputies has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and been assigned to Air Operations for 10. The other has been with the agency for 19 years and assigned to Air Ops for five. Their names were not released Sunday.

EuroCopter made ‘hard landing’

The Sheriff’s Office informed the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration. The federal agencies will conduct concurrent investigations of the incident, along with the Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s spokesman said it could be weeks before authorities conclude the cause of the forced landing.

“As of right now, the cause of the crash is still under investigation,” Gandhi said Sunday evening. “Could be mechanical; could be weather-related. Weather was starting to turn at the time. Obviously, it could be a combination of both.”

The helicopter had some type of malfunction and made a “hard landing,” said Sheriff Jim Cooper, who went to the crash site to make sure both deputies were all right.

Manufactured in 2000, the helicopter is an Airbus EuroCopter EC120B Colibri with tail number N255SD. It last received an FAA Airworthiness Certification in 2013, which expires in August 2025, and was informally known as STAR (Sheriff Tactical Air Response) V or STAR 5.

Deadly 2005 crash recalled

In 2005, a Sheriff’s Office helicopter known as STAR VI crashed on the north side of Lake Natoma near Hazel Avenue Bridge. Pilot Joe Kievernagel and tactical flight officer Kevin Blount were killed, and passenger Eric Henrikson was severely injured.

Former Sheriff Scott Jones, who left office Friday to make way for incoming Sheriff Cooper, confirmed Sunday afternoon that no one was hurt in the incident.

“I was advised that STAR had to make an emergency landing, but that everyone was OK,” Jones wrote in a text message to The Bee. “I was on the scene for the STAR 6 crash, so it’s always nerve-wracking to hear an emergency with STAR, but thankfully everyone walked away from this one unhurt.

“We have outstanding pilots that train for this, but just another reminder how dangerous police work can be, for many reasons.”

The 2005 crash spawned lawsuits, including a 71-page federal lawsuit against Tubromeca, the French company that made the helicopter engine, that alleged the company had installed an engine part inside out.

That case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and another suit later resulted in the company paying Sacramento County $1.5 million.

The sheriff’s spokesman said Sunday’s emergency landing does bring back “bad memories” of the 2005 helicopter crash that took the lives of the two deputies and injured the third person onboard. Gandhi said the Sheriff’s Office is relieved Sunday’s incident was nowhere near as serious.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief from top to bottom,” Gandhi told reporters. “We’re just happy that the two pilots are safe.”

The Bee’s Sam Stanton and Benjy Egel contributed to this story.


©2022 The Sacramento Bee.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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