Survivors ID'd after helicopter crashes into AZ lake - Tucson News Now

Survivors ID'd after helicopter crashes into AZ lake

PAYSON, AZ (CBS5/AP) - Authorities on Sunday released the names of three people aboard a privately owned helicopter that crashed Friday afternoon into Roosevelt Lake northeast of Phoenix.

The aircraft was on a two-hour sightseeing tour when it went down in 60 feet of water only 25 minutes after taking off from Scottsdale Airpark, Gila County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Tim Scott said.

Scott said a woman and two men were pulled from the helicopter by boaters in the lake, which is between Payson and Globe.

The pilot is identified as 62-year-old Fred Cleeves. The passengers were George Riedel, 64, and Julie Barba, 49.

"A witness pulled the female out of the water and attempted CPR and they got her to respond. The men were talking and wanting to make sure the female was taken care of," said Detective Karen Baltz with the Gila County Sheriff's Department.

The survivors were airlifted to Scottsdale Osborne Hospital for evaluations and treatment. Their conditions remain unknown.

Authorities said the Robinson R44 was registered to an Alaskan company and it isn't immediately known why it went down.

"Today was absolutely beautiful out here. Low wind. Beautiful day," said Scott.

At about 7 p.m., divers from the Gila County Sheriff's Office attached a buoy line to the helicopter so it could be easily spotted Friday morning when they planned to pull it out of the water. They were helped by a fisherman who had initially dropped a buoy line where he saw bubbles rising to the surface shortly after the chopper sank to help mark the spot where the craft went into the water.

Sheriff's boat patrol officers hauled in a number of items to the Cholla boat ramp, which had floated up to the surface from the helicopter.

They included the chopper's fuel tank and seat cushions, along with personal items such as a woman's shoe and purse.

Deputies said the company plans to retrieve the helicopter on Tuesday if all goes according to plan. 

The helicopter is leased by Sky Blue Helicopters of Scottsdale, the sheriff's office said.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.

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