The sheriff's helicopter sustained
The pilot, Sgt.
"It's inappropriate for me to discuss personnel issues," the sheriff wrote in an email. Latapie did not return a phone message left with a family member.
According to the
As the helicopter approached the airport to land, the pilot made a right turn and the engine lost power. The pilot performed an emergency maneuver called an "autorotation," causing the aircraft to land hard on the ground, the
The investigation concluded that Latapie failed to maintain pitch control during the emergency maneuver. The low fuel level, which resulted in "loss of engine power," was a factor in the accident, the
"It's the pilot's responsibility to monitor the fuel level, and if it gets low, to refuel," Benhoff said. "Sometimes running out of fuel can't be avoided."
According to the
The helicopter had been involved with an unsuccessful search for a 71-year-old woman in Alpine County and refueled in Modesto before responding for the Tuolumne County search, Christianson stated.
Stanislaus County has
The damaged Long Ranger aircraft is the larger of two helicopters in the sheriff's Air Support Unit. Its jet engine was upgraded 10 years ago for search-and-rescue missions, in which a deputy is lowered on a line to pluck a person from a mountainside or reservoir. The second helicopter is smaller and mostly used as air support for officers on the ground.
The sheriff said the Air Support Unit is a regional asset that assists other counties.
Christianson said it is cost-effective to repair the Long Ranger. "Repairing the aircraft in essence gives us a 'brand new' helicopter with zero time on dynamic components such as the airframe, transmission and rotor system," the sheriff wrote. He said the engine was not damaged by the accident.
Latapie had more than 6,500 hours of flight time with
Before joining the
Latapie and Modesto police Officer
According to Christianson, the costly accident in July was the first in the history of the sheriff's Air Support Unit. Its safety record has received recognition from the
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