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Helicopter crash kills two on Rogue River

A Josephine County deputy and the pilot were conducting a search west of Grants Pass

From staff and wire reports

GRANTS PASS ' Two people were killed Thursday when a helicopter crashed along the Rogue River while they were searching for a missing woman.

Josephine County sheriff's deputy Tom Rice, 46, of Grants Pass, and the helicopter's pilot, 46-year-old James E. Marks, of Kingman, Ariz., died in the crash. Rice, a marine patrol deputy, was flying as the spotter for the search mission.

The helicopter apparently hit a utility line that crosses the river downstream from the OK Corral, a popular stopping spot for jetboat tours about 10 miles west of Grants Pass, said Josephine County sheriff's Lt. Gordon Williams. The helicopter stalled when it hit the wire and crashed to the ground, deputies said.

Williams said the pilot and a deputy were pronounced dead at the scene.

The wreckage of the two-seat private helicopter was in the water, tied off to a small tree so it would not float away.

Williams said the two people aboard were helping to search for 71-year-old Ivanette Arden Villasenor of Grants Pass, whose white Cadillac was abandoned over the weekend at the Graves Creek boat ramp, a popular raft-launching spot at the beginning of the wilderness section of the Rogue River.

Investigators believe that Villasenor ended up in the river, said sheriff's Sgt. Lee Harman. Dogs tracked the woman's scent from her car directly to the water earlier this week, Harman said. The search was continuing Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Bureau and the Federal Aviation Administration sent investigators to the site to determine the cause of the crash and related factors, FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said.

A deputy for nine years, Rice is survived by his wife, a son and daughter.