ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque and neighboring communities are in mourning after the deaths of four people in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter crash Saturday. First responders and others lined I-25 Sunday afternoon as the four victims were escorted back. Community members tell KRQE News 13 this is an enormous loss for the community.

“They live heroic lives, you know, they live dangerously to help us,” says Matthew Bugg, who watched as the motorcade passed by, “These guys and gals sacrifice so much. You never know if these things happen to them, when they’re gonna come home.”

The motorcade, bearing Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lieutenant Fred Beers, Deputy Michael Levison, and Bernalillo County Fire Rescue Specialist Matthew King passed through Albuquerque around three o’clock Sunday afternoon on their way to the Office of the Medical Investigator. Albuquerque police on one overpass raised their arms in salute as they passed, and community members watching also paid their respects to these first responders.

“In my feeling, it’s like I lost a family member,” says Rick Sanchez, who also watched the procession drive by. “It’s, like I say, they’re family. My family’s involved in BCSO and heart-shattering,”

“It was very emotional. Teared up. Yeah. You see that. It’s an honor for them to do that and it is just—it’s the least we can do,” Bugg says.

BCSO Undersheriff Larry Koren served as the chief pilot of Metro Two—shown in video on the county’s website. In the recent video, Koren talked about how far the program has come, and how gratifying his work was to him.

“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Koren said in the video. “And when we first started off our air program and looking for people—whether it be in the city or out in an austere environment, often I was using a Rand McNally map and flipping through pages. Sometimes with a flashlight tucked under my chin.”

BCSO Lieutenant Fred Beers was promoted to that position in December of 2020. In the promotion ceremony, his superiors commended his excellent work.

Deputy Michael Levison was on board the fatal flight, which was flying back after helping crews with the East Mesa Fire along with rescue specialist Matthew King with the Bernalillo County Fire Rescue. “Saving lives is a serious matter and we take our job very seriously,” King said in a video on the county’s website.

Now, the Bernalillo County community is grieving this devastating loss. “The air unit has the best deputies and firefighters in the nation. And for what we do here, we recruit the best of the best,” Koren said in a video.

A press briefing is expected to be held Monday. State and federal investigators are still looking into the cause of the crash.