HUERFANO, COUNTY, Colo. — The Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office has identified the pilot who died during a helicopter crash that happened earlier this week.

A death investigation revealed the pilot to be Michael Vaughn Cranford, 70, of Peyton, Colorado.

According to a recent press release, the crash happened on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 11:50 a.m. when the helicopter went down in the Cuchara River Canyon area, which is in a rural part of Huerfano County.

Initial reports indicated the aircraft was military and there were multiple fatalities. Further investigation revealed the information was incorrect. The actual reporting parties were two other aircraft that were flying with the downed helicopter.

When deputies arrived, they found a single-engine Vans RV-4 aircraft at the bottom of the Cuchara River Canyon. The pilot was found dead inside.

Due to dangerous wind conditions, rugged terrain, failing light, and the remote publicly undisclosed location of the crash site, it was determined that recovery operations be resumed the following morning.

On Thursday, Dec. 9, an updated recovery plan was initiated. Deputies, along with Search and Rescue personnel and an NTSB aircraft accident investigator, hiked down into the canyon. Once they arrived, they began an investigation.

Flight for Life was activated after the determination of a safe landing zone in the area. Helicopter Lifeguard 4 landed and the pilot’s body was taken into the custody of the Spanish Peak Hospital Coroner. He was then transported to the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy.

The manner and cause of death is pending. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.