San Miguel County, NM – Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, and Deputy Michael Levison died in the line of duty on July 16 when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in a remote area outside of Las Vegas.
Bernalillo County Fire Department (BCFD) Rescue Specialist Matthew King was also killed in the crash, New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham said in a press release on Monday.
The four first responders were inside BCSO helicopter Metro 2 assisting with wildfire suppression efforts by “providing bucket drops and other air logistics needs to fire crews on the ground” and were returning to Bernalillo when the crash occurred at approximately 7:20 p.m., the BCSO said in a press release on Sunday.
“At this time, the specific cause of the crash is unknown,” the sheriff’s office said.
The helicopter was a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
A multifaceted, multiagency investigation into the tragic collision remained ongoing on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said.
“Our hearts are broken by the tragic and distressing news that we lost four of the state’s finest public servants, killed in the line of duty,” New Mexico Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jason Bowie said in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal. “It’s a sacrifice no one should have to make.”
The BCSO and the Office of the Medical Investigator recovered the fallen heroes from the crash site and transported their bodies to Albuquerque on Sunday afternoon.
Flags were raised and people stood along the route to salute and honor the procession of first responders as they passed by, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
“Our focus remains on providing care and support for the surviving family members as they grapple with the situation,” the sheriff’s office said.
Grisham said that the loss of all four dedicated public servants “will leave a devastating hole in the lives of countless family members, friends, and colleagues at the Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office and Fire Department.”
“Their bravery and public dedication will not be forgotten,” the governor added.
Undersheriff Koren served the BCSO for more than 23 years, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Lt. Beers had been with the department for 13 years.
In addition to his service as a law enforcement Officer, Deputy Levison also served in the New Mexico Air National Guard, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Rescue Specialist King had been a paramedic for the past 17 years.
University of New Mexico Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine Dr. Drew Harrell said he knew all four of the fallen heroes and that they had worked together on numerous rescue missions in the past, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
“Seldom do you lose one or two, much less undersheriffs and lieutenant officers as well as patrol deputies to a single event,” Harrell said, adding that their deaths “will certainly reverberate for quite some time.”
“These were four dedicated public servants who were doing what so many of our first responders do day in and day out: working tirelessly to serve and protect their fellow New Mexicans,” Grisham said in a statement to KRQE on Sunday. “On behalf of the people of New Mexico, I extend my deepest gratitude to these four brave individuals, and my deepest sympathy to their families, friends and colleagues.”
The governor ordered all state and U.S. flags be lowered to half-staff through sundown on July 22.
“This action will serve to commemorate the lives of Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison and Rescue Specialist Matthew King, and to mourn their loss,” she said.
Village Flags will be at half mast today in honor of those who passed in a helicopter Crash near Las Vegas. Today the Village honors Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison, Bernalillo County Fire Rescue specialist Matthew King pic.twitter.com/z96OJmpASC
— Village Of Tijeras (@TijerasNM) July 18, 2022
Our fallen first responders have been identified as:
𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐟 𝐋𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐲 𝐊𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐧
𝐋𝐢𝐞𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐁𝐞𝐞𝐫𝐬
𝐃𝐞𝐩𝐮𝐭𝐲 𝐌𝐢𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐞𝐥 𝐋𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐧
𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐰 𝐊𝐢𝐧𝐠 (𝐁𝐂𝐅𝐑) pic.twitter.com/VAsghnBLnA
— BCSO (Sheriff) NM (@BCSONM) July 17, 2022
I am absolutely heartbroken by the tragic loss of four New Mexico first responders in a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office helicopter crash.
These were dedicated public servants doing what first responders do day in and day out: working tirelessly for their fellow New Mexicans.
— Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) July 17, 2022
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the three Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies and the Bernalillo County Fire Department firefighter who lost their lives in a helicopter crash late last night as they were returning home after assisting with the fires. pic.twitter.com/ReFXOZicA0
— Chief Stewart Steele (@ChiefSteele300) July 17, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, and Deputy Michael Levison, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.