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A helicopter crash outside of Sedona on June 30th took the lives of four Arizona residents. One of them was the 70-year-old pilot and owner of the aircraft, Raymond Perry of Scottsdale. He was the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the popular Arriba Mexican Grill restaurant chain. Perry’s financial interests also included investment in at least 30 other bars, restaurants, businesses and properties. His estate was worth an estimated $54 million. Also killed in the crash were 68-year-old Karen Stinn, 63-year-old Mike Dunaway and his wife 64-year-old Linda Dunaway. All were residents of Arizona.
Mike and Linda Dunaway lived for many years in Durango, Colorado where Mike was the Fire Chief and 26-year-veteran of Colorado fire and rescue teams. Linda Dunaway was an active member and executive with the Humane Society in Durango and Colorado’s La Plata County. The couple moved to Arizona two years ago. Karen Stinn was a real estate professional in Arizona for over 20 years. She owned multiple properties throughout Maricopa County and was a well-respected member of the community.
According to a Yavapai Sheriff’s spokesman, where the crash occurred, wreckage was spotted on Sunday morning but the FAA had been searching for the helicopter since Saturday when it was reported overdue. The group was headed from Sedona to Scottsdale when they crashed into the Verde River outside the small town of Camp Verde. The exact cause is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board but suspicion rests on hanging aerial wires. The helicopter may have struck these before going down into the remote Arizona wilderness.
The Aerospatiale AS350 was, most likely, being used to sightsee over the picturesque Verde River when the tragedy occurred. According to the local newspaper in Camp Verde, emergency crews who were the first to arrive at the scene say the cause of the crash was obvious, but federal authorities will have to announce that final determination, according to a report in the local Arizona paper the Verde Independent.
According to family members of the victims, Perry often flew his helicopter for recreation and had more than 50 years of experience as a pilot. Apparently, the trip that deadly morning was meant for a quick breakfast in Sedona. The group expected to be back in the afternoon.
Mechanical failure, poor safety warnings, or some other cause may have led to the tragedy. There may be a wrongful death suit filed in the coming months. As investigators seek the truth, some manufacturer, some organization, or some individual may be held negligent or irresponsible. And in California, where the number of private rotorcraft and other civil helicopters have a massive presence in the sky, this case in neighboring Arizona may teach some significant lessons.