While battling a fire in Riverside County on Sunday, two firefighting aircraft collided in Southern California, killing three people.
A helicopter safely touched down. “Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed, and tragically, all three members perished, which included one Cal Fire Division Chief, one Cal Fire Captain, and one contract client pilot,” said Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher during a news conference early on Monday.
Fulcher omitted to name the victims.
According to Fulcher, firefighters from Riverside County and Cal Fire were sent to a structure fire in the Cabazon neighborhood near the intersection of Broadway Street and South Ronda Avenue.
When the fire spread to the nearby vegetation, a complete wildland fire dispatch, including both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, was started. The two helicopters collided as they were putting out the fire.
An additional 4-acre (1.6-hectare) fire was started by the collision and put out. Fulcher said, “Although this was a horrible incident, we are also grateful today that it wasn’t worse.
No one else was wounded, and the people in the first helicopter were able to land safely without issue.
According to fire captain and spokesman Richard Cordova, the helicopter pilot was working on a project for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the collision.