NTSB: Poor maintenance and part failure led to fatal BCSO helicopter crash

NTSB issues final investigation report on fatal BCSO helicopter crash 10 p.m.

It's been nearly two years since a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office helicopter crashed in northern New Mexico. We lost four local first responders that day.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Transportation Safety Board released the full findings of their investigation into a BCSO helicopter crash that claimed four lives in July 2022.

Investigators found a gear failed due to wear and poor maintenance. They say that led to the driveshaft shearing off, the gearbox seizing up and the helicopter ultimately losing all power.

According to the report, there was a significant mechanical issue almost a year before the deadly crash. A small piece of magnetic metal was detected inside the engine oil system.

The report says crews flushed it out and cleaned filters. Then, the report reveals operators never utilized a lab analysis to pinpoint exactly what caused that problem in the first place.

Investigators suggest that could’ve prevented future problems and impending failure.

The report added the pilot flying directly into the sunset contributed to the crash. The helicopter also flew at around 500-600 feet above ground level which meant the pilot couldn’t autorotate the helicopter and safely land it after the engine failed.


At the time of the crash, the “Metro 2” helicopter was assisting with a firefight. They were providing bucket drops and other air logistics needs to fire crews on the ground. 

On the way back to Albuquerque, authorities say the helicopter crashed outside of Las Vegas. 

The crash killed all four men on board – BCSO Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison, and BCFR Rescue Specialist Matt King.

They were all seasoned first responders flying back to Albuquerque after assisting firefighters battling a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Koren and Beers spent a lot of time in Metro 2. They both helped rescue nearly two dozen people from a frozen Sandia Peak Tramway just months before the crash.

That’s why it’s especially concerning the NTSB determined poor maintenance caused the crash.

Statement from Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen

“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has received the final investigative report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the Metro 2 helicopter crash on July 16, 2022. This devastating event resulted in the loss of four invaluable lives, deeply impacting our team and our community. 

When Sheriff John Allen assumed office in January 2023, he recognized the potential for the NTSB report to suggest that improvements were needed in the operation of the Metro Air Support Unit (MASU). In response and noting the previous administration’s rapid and premature reinstatement of MASU just months after the tragedy, Sheriff Allen immediately grounded the unit. He initiated a comprehensive review and overhaul of all operational procedures to enhance safety and effectiveness, including revamping and creating new standard operating guidelines and acquiring a new aircraft that meets the highest safety standards. 

Throughout his first year, Sheriff Allen, in collaboration with MASU members and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue, conducted a detailed evaluation of all protocols and procedures in accordance with industry standards. This comprehensive year-long review was crucial before the confident relaunch of MASU in December 2023, now supported by increased safety measures, including adding an extra pilot and mechanic. 

In light of the NTSB’s findings, it is clear that our decision to pause and thoroughly overhaul MASU was not only necessary but critical,” stated Sheriff Allen. “We have taken every possible step to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again. We owe it to our community and to the families of Pilot Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, Deputy Micheal Levison, and BCFR Rescue Specialist Captain Matthew King to uphold the highest standards of safety and service. And we will honor their memory with our actions.”