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Six injured in L.A. County rescue helicopter crash in Angeles National Forest

The five L.A. County sheriff's deputies and UCLA doctor onboard were stabilized Saturday night.
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A Los Angeles County rescue helicopter crashed off a road in the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, injuring all six people onboard, officials said.

Five of the injured were sheriff's deputies of varying rank who were en route to a call, Deputy T. Koerner of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said. A UCLA physician on a ride-along was also injured, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Saturday night.

Most of the people on board were seen in NBC Los Angeles footage walking to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center after being take there by another helicopter. The sheriff said injuries include broken ribs and bone fractures.

The hospital's medical director, Dr. James Kim, said all the patients had been stabilized.

Air Rescue 5, listed by the department and various aircraft sites as a AS332 Super Puma, was one of three helicopters the department uses for rescues, the sheriff said.

The crew was on the way to pick up a patient injured in a vehicle crash when something abruptly happened and the pilot set the helicopter down in what Villanueva described as a hard landing and rollover.

Footage of the mangled helicopter with sheriff's markings and colors on State Route 39 above the city of Azusa was broadcast by NBC Los Angeles.

Koerner said the crash, on a turnout that abuts a perilous downslope, was reported at 4:58 p.m. at mile marker 21.70, in a remote part of the route that is part of the Angeles National Forest.

Villanueva described the crash site as being just a few feet from a 200-foot drop.

The three rescue helicopters run by the department are involved in more than 500 calls for service a year, said pilot and deputy Rob Gracia. The loss of one could impact the department's mission, he said.

“We’re short on personnel, we’re short on crews. So this is going to make rescues a little more difficult," Villanueva said.

The AS332 Super Puma and its crew are known for daring rescues along twisty roads in the L.A. mountains used by car and motorcycle enthusiasts. In 2018, NBC Los Angeles documented the prowess of the helicopter as it landed on a narrow stretch of mountain road.

Villanueva believes the crash is the result of a sudden mechanical or "environmental" malfunction. The cause was under investigation.