|ATV pictured above hidden in a wash with a camouflage tarp covering the drug load.|
|ATVs pictured next to a BLM truck and PCSO helicopter.|
|Polaris ATV shown after rolling end over end near AJAX Mine.|
FLORENCE, Ariz – The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Air Unit was busy Tuesday locating drugs in the Pinal County desert and assisting paramedics access a fatal ATV accident.
On the morning of 2-7-2012 PCSO pilot Lt. Scott Elliott and Tactical Flight Officer Danny Lopez were called to assist agents with the Bureau of Land Management in locating a truck suspected of smuggling narcotics through a desert area south of Interstate 8 and west of Stanfield Road.
While tracking the vehicle with the PCSO MD 500E helicopter, Deputy Lopez noticed a fresh set of ATV tracks leading north. After following the tracks a short distance, three quads were found hidden in thick brush and covered with camouflage tarps. A full search of the quads turned up 14 bundles of marijuana totaling 549 lbs. BLM took possession of the drugs while PCSO seized the ATV’s which were not stolen.
Later that day around 4:00 p.m., Lt. Elliott and Deputy Lopez were called to respond to a roll-over accident involving two men in their 70’s while riding a Polaris side-by-side ATV in a remote desert area east of HWY 79 and south of US 60. Due to the location of the accident, paramedics with Southwest Ambulance were unable to access the scene. Lt. Elliott landed the PCSO helicopter near the ambulance and Deputy Lopez loaded two paramedics into the aircraft, who were then flown to the scene to provide medical attention.
After landing safely near the roll-over, one of the patients in his 70’s, Walter McCary, from British Columbia, was pronounced deceased due to injuries suffered after being ejected during the roll-over.
Medics performed CPR on the second patient before a medical helicopter landed and flew him to a Valley hospital. Neither of the passengers riding the ATV was wearing a helmet or seatbelts. Evidence on scene suggests the men attempted to slow down before taking a downhill turn, but were unable to execute the turn before going over a steep embankment.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “These two incidents occurred over 80 miles apart, clearly demonstrating the need for quick response over the vast area of Pinal County which is over 5,000 square miles. Using their tracking skills as a team, Lt. Elliott and Deputy Lopez located a drug load, only visible from the air. In the case of the fatal ATV accident, the paramedics blew a tire trying to access the scene along Cotton Canyon Road and later indicated without the use of our helicopter, they wouldn’t have been able to reach the victims. I only wish we could have saved both riders. My heart goes out to the McCary family.”