- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (AP) - Cochise County supervisors are questioning whether the sheriff’s office needs a helicopter to replace one that crashed, killing the pilot and another person.

Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday cited concerns about whether the benefits of operating a helicopter outweigh the risks, the Sierra Vista Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1Db4Cdh ).

The previous helicopter program began in 2013 and was paid for by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.

Patrol Cmdr. Mark Genz, who led the program, said the helicopter was deemed valuable before a New Year’s Eve crash killed the pilot and a passenger.

Genz cited a hiker rescue, the capture of a homicide suspect and the prompt discovery of the location of a water main break in a rural area.

“We got a call that the water main broke and there was no water coming into Tombstone, so we called out the helicopter and within 15 minutes spotted exactly where the problem was,” Genz said.

The helicopter also was used to transport votes to Graham County for tabulation when Cochise County ballot-counting equipment malfunctioned.

Supervisor Ann English said, however, that the risks of operating a helicopter outweigh the benefits.

“I cannot support the acquisition or accept the gift of a helicopter,” English said.

Supervisor Pat Call said more information regarding the county’s liability is needed.

Genz said he will discuss the supervisors’ concerns with Sheriff Mark Dannels.

In September, the last helicopter had a fuel-line problem that caused a hard landing that severely damaged the aircraft. Then, the helicopter crashed near Benson Dec. 31 during a snowstorm while returning from a major overhaul in Glendale.

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Information from: Sierra Vista Herald, https://www.svherald.com

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