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Two Killed in Crash of Arizona Sheriff’s Chopper

Two civilian contractors returning from a maintenance run died when a helicopter leased by the Cochise County Sheriff's Office crashed in southern Arizona, the sheriff's office said Wednesday night.

The occupants — a pilot and a mechanic, whose identities weren't immediately disclosed — worked for Cochise Air, which the sheriff's office uses for law enforcement missions as needed, said Carol Capas, a sheriff's spokeswoman. They were flying back to the Sierra Vista airport from Phoenix after routine maintenance and were found by search and rescue personnel who traced the pilot's cellphone to the crash site outside the town of Benson, about 40 miles southeast of Tucson, Capas said.

Sheriff Mark Dannels said in a statement that he and his deputies had worked closely with the victims. He called their deaths a "tragic loss," saying they were "part of the Sheriff's Office family."

IMAGE: Map of helicopter crash site
The helicopter crashed near Benson, Arizona, about 40 miles southeast of Tucson. NBC News

— M. Alex Johnson