The pilot of a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department helicopter that crashed in the San Gabriel Mountains was recovering from serious injuries in a hospital Sunday.
The pilot, who has not been named, suffered “broken bones” and other injuries, said Deputy Alejandra Parra, a Sheriff’s spokeswoman.
All five Sheriff’s employees, as well as a doctor with them on a ride-a-long, who were on board the Air Rescue 5 helicopter that crashed near Highway 39 and East Fork Road deep in the mountains north of Azusa Saturday afternoon were still recovering Sunday. None had life-threatening injuries.
Highway 39 will remain closed for the rest of the day in the surrounding area as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the crash site, Parra said.
The NTSB did not return a request for comment about the investigation on Sunday morning.
What caused the Sheriff’s helicopter to plunge into the mountains was unclear.
“The helicopter suffered a malfunction of some sort — we don’t know if it was by mechanical, environmental, what they call a ‘brown out,’ wind change — but as they were trying to descend on a little turnout around mile marker 22, they suffered a hard landing and a rollover,” LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters on Saturday night.
“The aircraft landed just a few feet from a 200-foot drop down to Morris Dam below,” he said. “The fact it did not roll over and go all the way down or that there was no fire is nothing short of a miracle.”
The helicopter was part of the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, which runs the department’s search and rescue teams as well as SWAT.
With at least five employees injured, Villanueva said Saturday that it was unclear how the department would fill the gap in search and rescue operations.
The crash was the second of a police helicopter in about a month. The crash of a small helicopter into Newport Bay on Feb. 19 killed a Huntington Beach police pilot and injured another on board.