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The Latest: Ranchers among 1st to get to helicopter crash

January 20, 2018

This image taken from video shows the scorched earth in a remote area near Raton, N.M., Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, where a helicopter crashed late Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Friends and family members confirmed Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, that Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, were on the copter as they traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III at his ranch. (AP Photo/Peter Banda)

RATON, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on a helicopter crash in New Mexico that killed five people, including a Zimbabwean opposition leader (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

A New Mexico sheriff says residents from nearby ranches were among the first to arrive at a fiery helicopter crash that killed five people, including Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather.

Colfax County Sheriff Rick Sinclair said Friday that he had joined a game warden and paramedics in searching the rugged terrain for the wreckage after a survivor called 911. New Mexico State Police also responded.

Sinclair says that when the crews found the crash site, residents were already working to extinguish the flames.

The Bennetts’ friends and family say they had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III, who also died Wednesday.

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4 p.m.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board says investigators are reviewing aircraft maintenance records and flying conditions as they examine the charred wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in a remote area of New Mexico.

Investigators pushed forward Friday in searching for clues after the helicopter carrying a group of prominent friends went down two days earlier east of Raton. Authorities confirmed that Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, were among the victims, as well as wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss says the agency won’t release a probable cause for the crash until completing the investigation — something that has been known to take many months.

He says all parts of the aircraft were recovered from the site.

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1:13 p.m.

A 911 recording indicates Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett was injured but still alive as authorities tried to determine the location of a fiery New Mexico helicopter crash that ultimately killed him, his wife, Heather, and three others.

Raton police released 911 recordings Friday from the crash two days earlier in remote northern New Mexico.

Andra Cobb, the 911 caller and the crash’s sole survivor, was frantic as she spoke to a dispatcher, saying that she was watching her “family burn.”

She also said Bennett was alive but suffering from a head wound.

Her father, Paul Cobb, was the co-pilot. Her partner, Charles Burnett III, owned the ranch where the group was headed for vacation. Both were killed Wednesday.

Authorities say pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd also called 911, but later died.

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12:30 a.m.

Investigators will comb through the charred wreckage in search for clues as to why the helicopter carrying the group of prominent friends went down after dark Wednesday.

Friends and family members confirmed Thursday that Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III at his ranch.

Despite frigid temperatures that evening, the weather appeared to be clear and the wind was mild as they headed east over a rugged area toward Burnett’s ranch.

The only survivor was Andra Cobb, the co-pilot’s daughter and Burnett’s long-term partner. She was able to escape before the helicopter burst into flames.

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This story has been corrected to show the first name of the survivor is Andra.

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