4 Dead after Helicopter Crashed in Madera County

FRESNO, Calif.                   |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

The chopper, a Bell Jet Ranger, went down after hitting one of a tangle of power lines coming from the power plant at Redinger Lake. The crash occurred at around noon on Tuesday.

State Game Warden Patrick Foy described the mission as a routine seasonal survey of the deer population. But noted it can be dangerous. "The helicopters fly pretty close to the ground, and there are obvious inherent dangers associated with that." He said.

Foy added there have been several crashes in the past 40 years, since the aerial surveys started.

State Fish and Game Director John McCammon said the biologists and the pilot were well known and respected among the Fish and Game agency.

"We are very close family, Fish & Game. The employees have been ... we were all shocked when this occurred. We have set out groups of employees to help with employee assistance activities. We're having meetings in the region where the employees work with those employees. Sent wardens and employee assistants to the homes of the families involved and are extending whatever services we need to, to insure that they feel a part of the Fish and Game family." McCammon said.

Family and friends of the victims are grieving tonight. Bike shop owner Richard Holdsworth was a friend of Clu Cotter. "That's the one thing when I heard what happened today. I thought of Clu's kids. Because I see a lot of parents in here, a lot of kids and parents in here, and they are going to feel a big loss. He was an exceptional father." He said.

Clu Cotter turned 48 on Monday. Kevin O'Conner would have turned 42 on Wednesday.
Schwarzenegger's Statement on Fish & Game Helicopter Crash
Helicopter Information

The Bell 206-B entered service in 1983. The registered owner is Palm Springs Aviation Incorporated based in Desert Hot Springs, California.

Helicopter Image: Copyright by Steve Nation | 2007-12-04 | 1983 Bell 206B @ Reno-Stead Airport

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