Deputy Mark Tonkin, an eight year veteran of the Sheriff-Coroner Department, lost his life in a helicopter crash on Monday night, October 24, 1988, while assigned to DESERT RANGER, a multi-agency cooperative narcotic enforcement program in the state. Mark was one of eight victims aboard a California National Guard UH1H Huey Helicopter which went down and burned in mountainous terrain near El Centro, California.
Other members of the narcotic team on the ill-fated mission were two deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, one each from Riverside County Sheriff and the Imperial County Sheriff Departments, and three officers from the California National Guard. Operation DESERT RANGER has, in the past, involved personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff and San Diego County Sheriff.
Deputy Tonkin joined the department on August 21, 1981. He was initially assigned to the Main Jail upon completing basic training. He worked a short time as a court bailiff and then assigned to North Patrol. Deputy Tonkin was assigned to the Career Criminal Apprehension Team in January of 1988.
Deputy Tonkin was survived by his wife, Mary Ann, and parents, James and Gloria Tonkin, of Whittier.