Cause of Copter Crash That Killed Deputy Still Unknown

Federal investigators searched a remote canyon in northeast San Diego County on Monday for clues in the crash of a sheriff’s helicopter that killed a deputy and injured the pilot.

The 1983 McDonnell Douglas 500D helicopter was on patrol when it lost power and crashed at 7:44 p.m. Sunday in Sycamore Canyon, about 20 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Pat Coyle, 42, a sheriff’s deputy for almost nine years, died about three hours after the crash at Sharp Hospital in San Diego.

Pilot Ron Hobson, a sheriff’s deputy for 17 years, was taken to Mercy Hospital, where he was treated for cuts and bruises and released Monday.


Bruce Nelson, operations officer for the Federal Aviation Administration, said Monday that the cause of the crash has not been established. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, which has primary responsibility for investigating crashes of aircraft operated by public agencies.

Except for flights related to the investigation of the accident, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s six helicopters were ordered grounded for three days while the probe continues.

Hobson and Coyle had landed in the canyon to check on a report of trespassers. When they had completed that investigation, they spotted another group of people and lowered the aircraft.

The helicopter ran into trouble when it tried to ascend from that location, said Sgt. Don Crist. Hobson later reported that he could not get enough power from the copter.


Three bicyclists lifted Coyle out of the helicopter and helped the injured Hobson radio for medical assistance.

Coyle had been assigned to the sheriff’s aerial support unit for the past two years. He is survived by his wife, Jackie, and two children, Cory, 9, and Chelsea, 5.