California Department of Fish and Game Loses Three Biologists in Helicopter Crash

California’s Department of Fish and Game (DFG) lost three biologists on Tuesday, January 5, 2010, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in the Sierra National Forest. The men were conducting an aerial survey, studying deer behavior in Madera County, when their Bell 206 helicopter operated by Landells Aviation of Desert Hot Springs, crashed in the forest near Redinger Lake. Fire, started by the helicopter crash, delayed rescuers from getting to the crash site.

Killed in the crash were biologists Clu Cotter, DFG Associate Biologist, 48 years old, Kevin O'Connor, DFG Senior Biologist Supervisor, 40 years old, and Tom Stolberg, DFG Scientific Aid, 31 years old, all of Fresno. Helicopter pilot Dennis (Mike) Donovan was also killed in the crash.

The FAA has confirmed that the helicopter hit an unmarked power line. Power lines above 200 feet are required to be visibly marked. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.