The Wednesday evening crash of a privately flown Bell UH-1H Huey, registered as N658H, in northern New Mexico claimed five occupants, including a prominent Zimbabwean opposition leader. A sixth passenger was severely injured. New Mexico State Police received a 911 call from one of the victims at approximately 6 p.m. MST on Wednesday. The helicopter went down in mountainous terrain 15 miles east of Raton Municipal Airport/Crews Field (RTN) shortly after departing the airport for a private ranch near the Colorado border.
According to the Metar report for RTN at the time of the accident, there were clear skies and light winds on the moonless night. The helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and subsequent fire.
Among the deceased was Robert Bennett, treasurer-general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe and a vocal critic of the country’s deposed president Robert Mugabe. Other victims included Bennett’s wife, Heather, and Houston businessman Charles Burnett III.
N658H was once operated by government services contractor DynCorp. The FAA registry lists the current owner as Sapphire Aviation LLC of Houston.