Patrolman Found After Helicopter Crash

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Rescuers found a state police patrolman
suffering from extreme hypothermia Wednesday after his helicopter
crashed into a snowy mountain in northern New Mexico, and officials
feared that the two others aboard didn't survive.

"At this point, information would indicate that we do not have
any more survivors," State Police Chief Faron Segotta said.

He said information about the others came from 29-year-old
officer Wesley Cox, who was taken to a Santa Fe hospital and is
"extremely hypothermic." Cox was the spotter on the helicopter,
which was picking up a lost hiker.

Cox was hospitalized in serious condition with a back injury,
possibly a fracture, and a "seriously crushed" right leg,
according to the chief. He also said Cox has some internal
bleeding.

"He is one tough kid," Segotta said.

The pilot, Sgt. Andrew Tingwall of Santa Fe, radioed in his last
radio transmission Tuesday night that he had hit the mountain.

Segotta said three campers near Lake Stewart saw the helicopter
take off and fly around the north side of the mountain, then heard
its rotors rev to a high pitch. They then saw a flash of light and
heard a crash, he said.

Segotta said a National Guard aerial crew was trying to locate
the crash site. Officials said earlier that searchers had been
hampered by snow and poor visibility near the area, which is about
15 miles northeast of Santa Fe.

The helicopter was believed to be eight or nine miles from the
start of the trail and its emergency beacon signal was still
emitting, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson
said.

He said that when a dispatcher asked Tingwall whether the three
aboard were all right, the pilot responded: "Not really."

Segotta said the helicopter carried food, water and an emergency
blanket and that Tingwall was prepared. "Our pilots are trained
for survival," he said.

The helicopter may have crashed into the mountainside after the
tail rotor hit something and subsequently failed to gain enough
altitude to negotiate a safe landing, he said.

Cox was thrown from the copter, then returned to it to hunker
down inside for the night, Segotta said. He checked the vital signs
of the hiker, Negumi Yamamto, but concluded that had she perished
in the crash, the chief said.

Through the night he called out to Tingwall, who answered -
encouraging news that indicates there's some chance the pilot is
still alive, Segotta said.

When daybreak came, Cox decided to hike out. Rescuers believe he
walked several miles before finding the searchers.

The helicopter is specially equipped for high altitude search
and rescue missions, including landing and taking off at up to
15,000 feet and flying up to 20,000 feet, said state Public Safety
Secretary John Denko. It was purchased in 2003.

Prior to the doomed rescue attempt, Yamamoto had been with her
boyfriend on the mountain but they became separated, Olson said,
and she used her cell phone to call for help Tuesday evening.

The boyfriend, whose name was not released, was escorted out
with search and rescue crew; he had stayed overnight at a campsite.
Police said Yamamoto is from Tokyo, and a student at the University
of New Mexico.

Olson, who has hiked Santa Fe Baldy, said the trip to the top is
arduous and said the area where the helicopter was believed to be
was in "very rugged terrain."

Tingwall is a 13-year veteran of the force. He was honored with
the Officer of the Year award for his efforts during an August 2008
incident in Albuquerque in which he helped save a man from a
flooded arroyo.

In that incident, Tingwall and other officers were having dinner
after their aircraft was grounded due to hazardous weather
conditions. They overheard an emergency dispatch about the man
being caught in the nearby arroyo and responded. Tingwall spotted
the man, rappelled down a step concrete wall and pulled the man
from the water.


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