Body of 81-year-old skier recovered after helicopter searching for him crashed

Dog guarded Robert Blake until body was found

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, Colo. - The body of a missing 81-year-old skier was recovered Saturday in San Miguel County, after a helicopter involved in the search crashed.

Robert Blake of Corrales, New Mexico was reported missing on Friday after he failed to return from an afternoon of cross country skiing near the Delores County line, said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters.

A Bell 407 Classic Lifeguard helicopter contracted from Moab, Utah joined the search Saturday.

Blake was found dead at 11:39 a.m. Saturday by a ground search team near Lizard Head Pass, Masters said.

At about the same time, the helicopter experienced a sudden loss of power at 10,000 feet -- but a low altitude above the ground -- on the Dolores County side of Lizard Head Pass. The helicopter crashed with three Classic Lifeguard crew members and a deputy with the San Miguel Sheriff's Office on board, according to Masters.

All four crewmembers on board the helicopter when it went down were uninjured and were able to walk away from the crash.

Federal authorities will be investigating the cause of the helicopter crash.

Blake appeared to have died from natural causes on Friday, and there was no sign of foul play.

Blake’s golden retriever “Buddy” was found at his side in a "protective state" -- still guarding his body from scavengers and coyotes that had been seen in the area the night before, Masters said.

Buddy was safely returned to Blake’s family.

"While it is unfortunate that the victim did not survive and we are saddened for his family’s loss, we are thankful that no rescuers were injured and that we were able to complete our mission," Masters said. "We are especially fortunate that the helicopter crewmembers were not seriously injured or killed."

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