New Mexico firefighter killed in helicopter crash honored by community: 'His compassion was just unmatched'

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A funeral was held on Monday for a New Mexico firefighter killed in a helicopter crash last month. 

Bernalillo County Fire Lt. Matthew King was one of four first responders killed in the crash on July 16. He had served Bernalillo County for more than 11 years.

“His reason for applying was because, and I quote, ‘It is my lifelong goal to become a firefighter paramedic.’ I would say he met his lifelong goal and then some,” Deputy Chief Zach Lardy said, according to KOAT.

King was one of the original six personnel chosen to help develop a helicopter-based rescue program, which has responded more than 400 times and helped thousands of New Mexican residents.

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Bernalillo County Fire Lt. Matthew King was killed in a helicopter crash on July 16. (Bernalillo County Fire Department)

“We were all afraid of disappointing Matt,” Lardy said.

He was seen as a mentor by his fellow service members. He had mentored and trained more than 50 cadets to become firefighters in Bernalillo County, according to Division Chief Joshua Ellis.

“I responded to a call for a lady who was having trouble breathing. While we were inside her house, Matt held her hand and helped move her to our bed. He never let go. His compassion was just unmatched,” Ellis said.

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Lt. Matthew King had mentored and trained more than 50 cadets to become firefighters in Bernalillo County.

Lt. Matthew King had mentored and trained more than 50 cadets to become firefighters in Bernalillo County. (Bernalillo County Fire Department)

King leaves behind his wife and children.

“Audrey, I know he loved you more than any words could possibly express. Aedden and Kyra, your dad, obsessively talked about how proud of both of you he was,” Lardy said.

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Lt. Matthew King served Bernalillo County for more than 11 years. This picture is a file photo of a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

Lt. Matthew King served Bernalillo County for more than 11 years. This picture is a file photo of a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. (Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office)

He was given the medal of honor, Line of Duty Death medal, and his Ceremonial Axe before his community said farewell.

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“Chief one fire control. Please provide final dispatch for Lt. Matthew King,” Fire Chief Greg Perez said.

King, 44, was killed as well as Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren, 55, Lieutenant Fred Beers, 51, and Deputy Michael Levison, 30.

The first responders were on board the helicopter helping to fight the East Mesa Fire, dropping buckets of water over the blaze, the sheriff’s department said on Twitter.

All communication was lost with the crew after the helicopter refueled and was on its way back to Albuquerque. The helicopter went down near Las Vegas, New Mexico. It’s unclear what caused the crash. 

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