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Helicopter Fire

March 29, 1994

I read about Sheriff Larry Carpenter's suspension of Ventura County Sheriff's Department helicopter pilot Chris Spangenberg. Chris' dedication to helping others has been demonstrated both in his service to his country flying dangerous rescue missions in Vietnam and in search-and-rescue missions for Ventura County residents.

It would have been easier for Chris to have used his vast flying experience to land himself a high-paying corporate job--that's what most of us would do. Instead, he has put himself at risk by flying in the worst weather (high winds, rain, firestorms and low clouds) to rescue those of us who get lost in the mountains, become the victims of a car or plane crash, or get trapped by swollen rivers or fire.

Occasionally, accidents occur for one reason or another. It's easy to Monday morning quarterback the reason why fire engulfed the sheriff's Bell Long Ranger helicopter while Chris Spangenberg was on duty. I am quite willing to wait for the National Transportation Safety Board to rule on the cause of the accident. If the board finds gross error on his part, that's one thing. But if it was one of life's unpredictable accidents, then I call on Sheriff Carpenter to put Chris Spangenberg back into the Ventura County sheriff's helicopter.

People who put others first, risking their own safety, are hard to find. They are the heroes among us.

MARK MALONE

Camarillo

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