Sheriff Alex Villanueva
Photo via Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Six people aboard a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter — five deputies and a UCLA doctor on a ride-along — were recovering Sunday after the aircraft crashed near the San Gabriel Dam in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa.

All six had to be extricated from the wreckage and were transported to Pomona Valley Hospital where one was said to be critical, two had moderate injuries, two suffered minor injuries and one was in unknown condition.

During a news conference late Saturday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said all of the injured were expected to recover, noting that most suffered “fractures and broken ribs, things of that nature. Thankfully nothing that is life-threatening at this time,”

Villanueva told reporters it was “nothing short of a miracle” that all six survived.

The sheriff said it was unclear what caused the Air 5 Super Puma helicopter to crash and the National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.

“The helicopter suffered a malfunction of some sort — we don’t know if it was by mechanical, environmental, what they call a `brown out’ wind change,” he said. “but as they were trying to descend on a little turnout around mile marker 22, they suffered a hard landing and a rollover.”

The crash occurred at 4:50 p.m. Saturday near Highway 39’s Mile Marker 21.7 in the San Gabriel Dam area, said Deputy Alejandra Parra of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

Air Rescue 5 was en route to a call for an air evacuation of victims from a nearby vehicle collision when it crashed, Parra said.

The aircraft is one of three belonging to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau.

In addition to the doctor, those on board included two pilots and three medics.

“The Department would like to thank our community for the outpouring of support for our Deputies during this unfortunate incident,” sheriff’s officials tweeted late Saturday. “We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.”

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