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Pinal sheriff’s chopper helps Stonegarden operation detain 18 near Marana

A helicopter crew with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office helped Border Patrol agents apprehend a group of 18 people from Central America and Mexico on Thursday morning, authorities said. 

The crew of Pinal County's helicopter Pinal Air 1, operating under Operation Stonegarden—a Homeland Security-led grant given to border counties—flew to an area northwest of Marana after the migrants activated a remote surveillance sensor along a desert trail, said a spokesman with Tucson Sector Border Patrol. 

With Border Patrol agents in the helicopter, the crew made a brief aerial search before the agents spotted the group. The helicopter landed and the agents "deployed" from the aircraft, while a second group of "tactical unit "agents on the ground helped locate the men, he said. 

Agents apprehended the men dressed in camouflage without incident. Among the group were three men from Guatemala, six from Honduras, three from El Salvador, and three from Mexico, the spokesman said. 

One of the men was "medically distressed," and a Border Patrol agent with emergency medical training determined the man needed to be sent to a nearby hospital. The Pinal Air 1 helicopter transported the man to a waiting ambulance that took him to a local hospital, he said. 

The other men were transported to the Casa Grande Station and were processed for immigration violations, he said. 

PCSO has flown several missions in Pima County and Pinal County under Operation Stonegarden, according to releases from CBP. This has become especially public after Pima's Board of Supervisors rejected the Stonegarden grant during a meeting last September.

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A group of men wait after they were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol with help from a helicopter crew with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.