The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has launched a new helicopter one year after the one it leased crashed, killing two.
The New Year’s Eve 2014 crash near Benson left a Navy veteran and retired police officer dead after they were returning from routine maintenance in the Phoenix area and encountered bad weather.
The Sheriff’s Office is now working with a new leasing company and will be using a new helicopter that’s much bigger and has more capabilities, spokeswoman Carol Capas said.
Capas said the department had been relying on air support from federal and state agencies and that having its own unit will be extremely helpful in such a large and sparsely populated county.
It was particularly difficult for deputies who had to respond to remote areas that take too long to get to by car, she said.
“With our air support, we are going to be able to launch at any given time and we’re gonna be able to get there much quicker in some cases,” she said.
The helicopter will also be used for emergency situations. For example, Cochise County sits on the border with Mexico and is regularly traversed by drug smugglers.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is covering the entire cost of operating the helicopter for the first year, Capas said. Capas said the agency will review the program at the end of the year and that it doesn’t have funds to support it on its own.