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Helicopter Crash Victims Worked for Peoria Police Department

The two people who died in a helicopter crash in the northwest Valley on Friday worked for the Peoria Police Department.

Michael Gauchat, 41, had been a police officer with the department since 1990. Donna Collum, 45, had been with the city of Peoria since 2000, working first in the fleet department and, in 2003, becoming a police services officer.

The chopper went down on an access road near the landmark Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City. A Prescott Daily Courier article quotes a witness who says "things started falling off" the helicopter just before it crashed.

Peoria Police Chief Larry Ratcliff released the following statement today:

This is a major tragedy for the families involved and for members of the Department. Both Mike and Donna are highly respected members of the Department. Our thoughts and prayers are with Donna and Mike's families and the members of our department who are processing this tragic event while continuing to provide law enforcement services to the community. Thank you to all of you who have expressed your sympathy.

Calls to Peoria police were not immediately returned.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.