Tucson helicopter pilot, two passengers, dead in NM chopper crash

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Tucson helicopter pilot, two passengers, dead in NM chopper crash

By Ina Ronquillo, Simone Del Rosario. CREATED Aug 31, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep 1, 2013

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KGUN9-TV) -  Authorities say three people, including a 78-year-old, have been killed from a helicopter near Truth or Consequences.
Police said the 34-year-old pilot, Ebenezer Priebe, of Tucson, died in the crash Saturday along with his two passengers: 78-year-old Duane Zietlow, of Elephant Butte, N.M.; and 61-year-old William Brownfield, of Caballo, N.M.

The crash took place five miles south of Truth or Consequences on Highway 187.

According to the FAA, the 4-seater helicopter hit a power line and crashed down in the desert.

One witness posted on the local newspaper's Facebook page that the helicopter caught her attention because "it was flying really low."

Kent Stevens, a flight instructor for Cactus Helicopters in Tucson, shared some safety tips with Nine On Your Side.

"The major thing that anybody could take away from this -- and this is something I'll talk to my students about personally -- is always conserve that altitude. If there's not a reason to be super close to the ground and you can resist those external pressures, that's ultimately the most appropriate thing to do," Stevens said.

He said power lines are a major risk for helicopter pilots, but so are sight-seeing passengers hoping to get a closer look. He said pilots shouldn't cave to pressure to fly lower than comfortable. 

The NTSB is now investigating the accident. Once investigators are on scene they will gather all the evidence -- from GPS and air traffic control communication to the wreckage itself -- before determining what actually caused the crash.