Rescue Helicopter Crashes During Search
TELLURIDE – The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office announced on Saturday, May 3, that it recovered the body of Robert Blake, of Corrales, N.M., reported missing after he failed to return from an afternoon of cross-country skiing Friday in the Lizard Head Pass area near the San Miguel County and Dolores County line.
A combined search and rescue effort by the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office and rescue personnel from Dolores County searched the area Friday night without success. Search and rescue efforts resumed Saturday morning, with additional personnel from the San Miguel County Search and Rescue team, as well as personnel from Rico Fire and Rescue in Dolores County.
Blake was found deceased at 11:39 am by a ground search team in Dolores County near Lizard Head Pass within 200 yards of the San Miguel county line; he appeared to have died from natural causes the day before. There was no sign of foul play; his golden retriever, Buddy, was found at his side, in a protective state, still guarding Mr. Blake’s body from scavengers and coyotes spotted in the area Friday night.
Buddy was safely returned to the Blake family.
Assisting in the search was a Classic Lifeguard helicopter, contracted from Moab, Utah (the same helicopter used in the successful rescue of an injured skier on Mt. Wilson the week before.
At approximately the same time Mr. Blake’s body was found by ground personnel, the Bell 407 helicopter experienced a sudden loss of power while conducting a low altitude reconnaissance mission in Dolores County, south of Lizard Head Pass approximately one-half mile east of Highway 145. It crashed with three Classic Lifeguard crew members on board, and one SMSO sheriff’s deputy who was functioning as a SAR team leader in an aerial observer capacity. All four crew members on board when the helicopter went down were
uninjured, and able to walk away from the crash. They were picked up at the scene by other rescue personnel on snowmobiles, and returned to the command post. According to Sheriff Bill Masters, who served as incident commander, federal authorities will be investigating the cause of the helicopter crash.
“While it is unfortunate that the victim did not survive, and we are saddened for his family’s loss,” Masters said, “ we are thankful that no rescuers were injured and that we were able to complete our mission.
“We are especially fortunate that the helicopter crew members were not seriously injured or killed. All rescue personnel from both counties and all agencies worked really well together in a team effort.”