Officials locate crash site of missing helicopter with 2 on board

Published: Monday, April 7 2014 9:40 a.m. MDT

The Grand County Sheriff's Office and Utah Department of Public Safety are searching for two people who took a helicopter ride Sunday to search for antlers and didn't return as scheduled.

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GREEN RIVER, Emery County — A search for two men who didn't return Sunday from a helicopter flight ended Monday when their bodies were found at a crash site in a remote part of Emery County.

Robin Venuti, 38, of Washington, Utah, was the pilot of the white Robinson R22 helicopter, according to Grand County Sheriff Steven White. The sheriff identified Venuti's passenger as Albert Rubio, 36, of Beaver.

Venuti and Rubio took off about 11:15 a.m. Sunday from a field in Grand County near the border with Emery County, the sheriff said.

"They were up here hunting for (elk antler) sheds along the Green River corridor," White said.

When the men failed to return by 8 p.m. Sunday, family members contacted White's office. A search was launched that night with help from the Department of Public Safety helicopter. Flight crews used forward-looking infrared cameras to aid in the search, but the effort was suspended about midnight.

The search resumed Monday morning with helicopter crews from DPS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, White said. Four small planes were also called in to aid in the effort, which encompassed parts of Carbon, Emery and Grand counties.

White described the search area as "very treacherous terrain."

"It's tough. It's in extreme conditions," he said. "The cliffs are very narrow, very steep."

It was in one of those steep, remote places that a DPS plane picked up a signal from an emergency locator transmitter about 2:30 p.m. The pilot followed the signal to the crash site in the Range Creek area, White said. The DPS helicopter was called in, and its crew was able to better survey the scene.

"It's kind of up on a hillside, from what the investigators told me. It's a pretty severe crash site, and both parties are deceased," White told the Deseret News shortly after notifying Venuti and Rubio's families of the men's deaths.

One man, identified by authorities as Rubio's brother, took the news particularly hard, crying and pleading with someone to fly him to the crash site immediately.

"That's understandable," White said, noting that family members had been "very helpful" throughout the search effort.

Because the crash is in Emery County, White said his office will work with the sheriff's office there to recover the bodies. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are also expected to send investigators to the site, the sheriff said.

"You're always hoping this is the one where you're going to find them (alive)," White said. "It's always a heartbreaker."

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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