Cochise sheriff ready for new helicopter

Published: Dec. 1, 2015 at 5:47 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2016 at 6:19 PM MST
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SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The new year means a new helicopter for Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.

A roughly $1.5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffet Foundation will cover expenses and operations for the chopper's first year in use, according to the sheriff's department.

County leaders approved the new equipment in November.

The sheriff's department has not used a helicopter since the last one crashed nearly a year ago, killing the pilot and mechanic on board. Before that, two people left unhurt from a "hard landing" of Cochise Air in September 2014.

Dannels said after nearly a year without air support, he's ready for his team to return to the skies.

"It's time to get back up there," he said. "It's time and I've heard from a lot of folks, especially in the rural parts of the county that it is invaluable to them."

The foundation is providing the helicopter, because its founders are stakeholders in Cochise County, according to Dannels. He said there's no guarantee of what will happen to the program after the first year of grant money runs out, but he expects to form a plan before then.

"You know, many people have asked if the risk outweighs the effectiveness of it," he said. "If you save one left, as it has in the past, there's no price on that."

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