On board the Cochise County’ Sheriff’s helicopter that crashed on Wednesday December 31, 2014 in Cochise County was retired Glendale Police Officer Jeff Steele. Mechanic Marc Hansen, 59, also perished in the crash.
Both men were employed by Airwest Helicopters LLC, a Glendale aviation company. Cochise Air is the helicopter that is leased by the Sheriff’s Office from Airwest for use in law enforcement and public safety missions.
Hansen was also a helicopter and airplane pilot and veteran of the U.S. Navy.
According to Glendale Police Chief Debora Black, Officer Steele retired from the Glendale Police Department in June 2011 after 25 distinguished years of service.
Steele was employed with the Department as a civilian for a short time before becoming a police officer acting as a patrol officer, K9 handler, SWAT operator and motor officer. Upon his retirement, Officer Steele held the position of Senior Motor Instructor.
“Jeff’s passing has been felt deeply across our Department. Since his retirement he has held close ties with the Department and has countless close friends still here. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and condolences are with not only Jeff’s family, but also with those of the mechanic on board,” said Chief Black in a statement released Thursday.
Related article: Cochise County Sheriff’s helicopter goes down, 2 killed
Cochise Air was returning from the Phoenix area back to the Sierra Vista airport in Cochise County after routine maintenance. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the leasing company shortly before 7:00 pm and advised that they had lost communications with Cochise Air near the Benson area. Tracking software was activated and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team responded to the general area along with Benson Fire and Medics in an attempt to locate the aircraft.
Search and Rescue personnel were able to trace the cell phone of the pilot which ultimately led to a more narrowed search area south of Interstate 10 outside of Benson. At approximately 9:20 pm, the Benson Fire Department advised that they had located the crash site of Cochise Air and located the two occupants (one pilot and one mechanic) who were deceased at the scene.
The National Transportation and Safety Board was notified about this incident and are responding to conduct an investigation along with the Sheriff’s Office assistance.