Thursday, February 29

LA County Sheriff’s helicopter crashes near road in San Gabriel Mountains; 6 hospitalized

A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department rescue helicopter crashed Saturday afternoon in the San Gabriel Mountains while traveling to a vehicle collision scene, leaving five deputies and a civilian with injuries that were not life-threatening, officials said.

A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter crashed Saturday in the San Gabriel Mountains above San Dimas and Glendora. (Image from ABC7 video)

The Air Rescue 5 helicopter went down around 4:30 p.m. near Highway 39 (San Gabriel Canyon Road) and East Fork Road, said Dispatch Supervisor Miguel Ornelas of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Highway 39 including in the Angeles National Forest was closed to vehicle traffic after the crash.


There were six occupants in the helicopter who were transported to a hospital or hospitals. One patient was initially listed in critical condition, the others had injuries described as moderate or minor.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a news conference at Pomona Valley Hospital late Saturday said of the injuries: “Thankfully nothing that is life-threatening at this time.”

Five of those on board were deputies who were on their way to a call for service, said Sgt. Gabriela Herrera of the LASD Information Bureau. The deputies were the pilot, copilot, crew chief and two paramedics. Villanueva said the sixth person on board was a UCLA doctor doing a ride-along.

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“All patients are currently in stable condition,” Dr. James Kim of the Pomona hospital said at the news conference.

The crash site is near the San Gabriel Dam and Reservoir in the San Gabriel Mountains above San Dimas, Glendora and Azusa. The aircraft experienced some kind of malfunction  before suffering a “hard landing and rollover” in a small turnout just a few feet from a 200-foot drop into the reservoir, Villanueva said.

Villanueva said it was a miracle that the fuel spilled from the crash did not ignite and that the aircraft did not go over the cliff.

What caused the crash of the heavy-lift Super Puma helicopter was not immediately known. Visibility was good in the region Saturday afternoon, with breezy wind and dry conditions.

Aerial footage from the scene showed the helicopter cabin appeared to be mostly intact but on its side, nearly upside down.

The helicopter was responding to a car crash on Old San Gabriel Canyon Road and Highway 39 that was blocking lanes and occurred at 4:25 p.m., said a California Highway Patrol Traffic Management Center dispatcher. The CHP incident log indicated a different rescue helicopter landed to transport a party with minor injuries.

The three-aircraft LASD helicopter Air Rescue 5 team makes hundreds of flights annually into some of the toughest terrain, often flying into narrow canyons and dealing with difficult topography.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Board will be investigating Saturday’s crash.

This was the second crash of a law enforcement helicopter in a month in Southern California. One officer was killed and another hurt Feb. 19 in the crash of a Huntington Beach Police Department helicopter in Newport Harbor.

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Staff writer Eric Licas and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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