A 57-year-old volunteer fell about 50 feet from a helicopter during a marijuana-eradication effort in Tulare County this week and died, authorities said.
Shane Krogen, a volunteer from Fresno with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, was in a remote part of the Sequoia National Forest in the mountainous area above Springville when the incident occurred Thursday morning about 10:10 a.m., authorities said.
Lt. Patrick Foy of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said the incident occured during part of Operation Pristine, which seeks to eradicate illegal marijuana grows in California, according to a news release from the agency.
Foy said that the area had been eradicated of marijuana three weeks ago and that Thursday's mission was primarily one of reclamation.
One group of about 15 people and a dog spent hours hiking up to the area and "were prepared as if the site was occupied by marijuana growers," Foy said. After they cleared the site, they called in a support team from the helicopter.
"They brought in Shane and his crew" to help, Foy said. Krogen was supervising about five people from the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew and supporting the operation.
Because the helicopter could not land, it hovered about 50 feet above the site and people were hoisted down in harnesses, authorities said.
Krogen "was one of the last, if not the last person out," Foy said. How he fell remains unclear and under investigation.
But a spokesperson with the Tulare County coroner's office said the cause of death "is listed as accidental due to blunt-force trauma."
He was was airlifted to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia and pronounced dead at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, Chris Douglass of the coroner's office said in an email.
In a statement, wildlife agency Assistant Chief John Baker said, "Shane's dedication to California's natural resources was extraordinary.
"He and his crew have worked tirelessly for several years to maintain access to the High Sierra for all Californians."