New Bernalillo County Sheriff's Helicopter
By El Gibson

Helicopter Relaunch

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Relaunches Metro Air Support Unit Four Months After Fatal Helicopter Crash

It was a bittersweet celebration as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office relaunched its Metro Air Support Unit Monday morning (Nov. 14).

Members of The University of New Mexico Department of Emergency Medicine joined the BCSO first responders at the Double Eagle Airport to mark the re-launch of a Star E-3 helicopter known as Metro 1.

“This is a celebratory day for us, but a very difficult day for us,” said Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III. “This is a monumental day for the agency and for this community, because this asset has been missed tremendously by the public.”

On July 16 this year, the BCSO Metro 2 helicopter crashed, killing all aboard. The crew were responding to the East Mesa Fire in San Miguel County near Las Vegas, N.M., when it crashed. The cause of the crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The death of Undersheriff Larry Koren left the air unit without a pilot – a large part of the reason the unit has been grounded since the accident. Also killed in the crash were Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue Specialist Matthew King.

Official autopsies of the four men released last week showed the men died from blunt force trauma resulting from the crash.


It’s a bittersweet moment for us, as we have reinstituted through the Sherriff’s Department the beginning of airborne law enforcement patrols for Metro 1
Andrew Harrell, MD

“It’s a bittersweet moment for us, as we have reinstituted through the Sherriff’s Department the beginning of airborne law enforcement patrols for Metro 1,” said Andrew Harrell, MD, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine who serves as BCSO medical director.

“Today symbolizes the renewal and return to service for both the Air Support Unit and the three agencies providing the critical and necessary pieces to search and rescue, law enforcement and airborne firefighting within the state of New Mexico.”

UNM Emergency Medicine personnel have had a close partnership with the BCSO helicopter service for several years.

“For more than six years, we have been providing high level technical rescue and medical support to supplement the Bernalillo County Fire Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department agencies supporting search and rescue in the state of New Mexico,” Harrell said.

Metro 1, which BCSO deputies have flown since 2007, was cleared to fly again last week after months of inspection, as it had been grounded for maintenance.

“It can carry up to five people. On general patrol there is usually just the two of us in there,” said BCSO Sgt. Charles Lill. “It does have a little bit of capacity for fire bucket work and rescue work.”

For months after the helicopter crash, Gonzales said there had been speculation that the air unit might not recover. “It’s been very difficult [for BCSO staff] to come to work every day knowing the losses they’ve had,” Gonzales said. “But they’ve come to work diligently working hard with the thought of getting back up in the air.”

Categories: Community Engagement, News You Can Use, School of Medicine, Top Stories