SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — He was a decorated search and rescue pilot who plucked people to safety in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and during one flood season, rented a helicopter on his day off to help rescue dogs stranded on rooftops.

“He was a natural pilot. He was so good at it. When he was in search and rescue, he saved countless lives,” said Jacqueline Dodd, his wife of 25 years, describing him as an adrenaline junky.

Jamie Coleman Dodd was one of five friends, including a Zimbabwean opposition leader, traveling to a ranch in New Mexico who died when their helicopter crashed in a remote area.

Her husband, who went by J.C., received the national “Jeep Hero” award in 2006 for his search and rescue efforts. He donated the award, a new Jeep Commander, to a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless, according to the website of the New Mexico Military Institute, where he went in the mid- to late 1970s.

“He was the kind of guy that you just wanted to be your friend,” Jacqueline Dodd said. “He was above reproach. He was just such a good person.”

Since September, he had worked as Burnett’s private pilot at the Emery Gap Ranch, she said. She and her husband filed separation papers in December after he moved to Trinidad, Colorado, the previous September.

“He took that job against all my wishes,” said Jacqueline Dodd, who lives in Applegate, California, in the foothills northeast of Sacramento.

Her husband enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1979. Dodd transferred to the Army’s Warrant Officer Flight School in 1983 and was later assigned to Howard Air Force Base in Panama, flying medical evacuation missions throughout Central and South America, according to New Mexico Military Institute website.

Dodd moved back and joined the California Highway Patrol in 1990, where he was a search and rescue helicopter pilot. He was inducted into the institute’s Hall of Fame in October 2010.

The CHP remembered him for his passion for work, pushing toward the use of night vision goggles in the helicopter program, and even his love for animals.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

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