Helicopter Crash Kills Biologists And Pilot In Madera County





Helicopter Crash Kills Biologists And Pilot In Madera County

By Mike Mitchell

January 6, 2010 - Three Department of Fish and Game (DFG) employees and a contract helicopter pilot died in a helicopter crash on Tuesday. They were on a routine aerial deer survey when the crash occurred in a remote section of Madera County. An investigation is under way into the cause of the crash. The crash occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m. DFG responded to the scene, along with U.S. Forest Service, the Madera County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Aviation Administration. An investigation is under way, no cause for the crash has been determined. 

Clu Cotter, DFG Associate Biologist, 40 years old, of Fresno, Kevin O’Connor, DFG Senior Biologist Supervisor, 48 years old, of Bakersfield and Tom Stolberg, DFG Seasonal Aid, 31 years old, Fresno, lost their lives in the helicopter crash. Helicopter pilot Dennis (Mike) Donovan of Landells Aviation, also lost his life. The families of the victims have been notified.  

"We are deeply saddened at the loss of our esteemed colleagues," said John McCamman, director of DFG. "Our employees are like family and this sudden loss during a routine operation has left us stunned and with heavy hearts."  

DFG annually conducts helicopter surveys to track trends in California deer populations. Surveys are conducted from the air because of cost-effectiveness compared to ground surveys, access to remote locations and to reduce bias compared to road-based observation. DFG has grounded all helicopter surveys and captures until further notice.  

McCamman immediately instituted critical incident counseling teams to work with DFG staff to help them deal with the loss of their coworkers. Many other DFG staff across the state knew Clu, Kevin and Tom, personally, and the loss is palpable to many in the department.  

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