Two men killed in helicopter crash near Range Creek

Two men died Sunday, April 6 while searching by helicopter for elk antlers in southeastern Utah. Robin Francis Venuti, 38, of Washington, and passenger Albert Munoz Rubio, 36, of Beaver had left Green River by helicopter Sunday morning to search for shed antlers.

Their bodies were found with the wreckage of the helicopter in a remote area of Emery County near Range Creek at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Monday, April 7.

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office was contacted at approximately 8 p.m. on Sunday by family members who were concerned that the two men had not returned to Green River earlier in the day, Grand County Sheriff Steve White said Monday.

A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew was called in and began an extensive search by air Sunday night using forward-looking infrared technology in an attempt to locate the missing helicopter in remote areas of Grand County. The Emery County Sheriff’s Office also assisted Grand County in the search effort. No signs of the helicopter were found and the search was suspended at midnight, White said. Authorities also attempted to locate the men by tracking their cell phones, but that effort was also unsuccessful, he said.

Early Monday morning, the DPS helicopter crew resumed the search, joined by a helicopter crew from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several fixed-wing aircraft, White said.

By mid-morning, the search was widened to include nearby counties and areas of western Colorado. The Emery County Sheriff’s Office assisted with searching by air on the west side of the Green River and the Range Creek area, according to a news release from the that agency.

“The search for the two men ended about 2:30 p.m. Monday when the DPS helicopter located the crash site on the west side of Desolation Canyon in Emery County approximately 40 river miles north of Green River,” the Emery County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Because the crash site was in steep, rugged terrain that is difficult to reach by ground, the DPS helicopter flew Emery County investigators to the scene where it was confirmed that there were no survivors. The bodies of Venuti and Rubio were recovered and transported by DPS helicopter to an Emery County off-road ambulance at approximately 6:45 p.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the crash, according to the Emery County Sheriff’s Office.

Hunting for antlers that are shed by elk, deer or moose is popular in Utah, especially in the spring, and shed antler hunting is legal in the state. However, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources requires those who hunt shed antlers between Feb. 1 and April 15 to complete an antler gathering ethics course that teaches how to safely hunt shed antlers without jeopardizing the health and safety of wildlife.

ByBy Lisa J. Church

Staff Writer