VISALIA, Calif. (AP) - Authorities in central California say a member of a volunteer environmental cleanup crew fell out of a helicopter and died during a marijuana eradication effort in Tulare County.
Detective James Fansett with the Tulare County Coroner's Office says Shane Krogen fell out of the helicopter on Thursday near Visalia. Krogen was the executive director and founder of the nonprofit, High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew.
The organization supports preservation, stewardship and restoration of public lands.
The eradication was conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).,/p>
The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter pilot declared a medical emergency due to a crewman being involved in a fall prior to landing in Visalia at 10:40 a.m. Thursday.
CSFW issued the follwing statement Friday:
Yesterday in a remote section of the Sequoia National Forest, during Operation PRISTINE, Krogen, along with the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, which he supervised, was supporting the operation when the incident occurred. Operation PRISTINE is a combined effort of CDFW, the California National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, and several local jurisdictions to identify, eradicate and reclamate the most polluted illegal marijuana grow sites in California.
"Shane's dedication to California's natural resources was extraordinary," said CDFW Assistant Chief John Baker. "He and his crew have worked tirelessly for several years to maintain access to the high Sierra for all Californians."
As the supervisor of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, Krogen has actively supported clean up missions of illicit marijuana cultivation sites, and other projects, since 2008. The incident is under a multi-agency investigation.
The Associated Press and News10/KXTV