Two helicopters have collided mid-air while fighting a raging blaze in Riverside County, southern California.
The incident unfolded as California fire crews were responding to a building fire that had rapidly spread into the surrounding vegetation in the community of Cabazon. Several fixed-wing and rotary aircraft were involved in the operation.
For unknown reasons, a Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane heavy-lift helicopter, registration N4037S, collided with a Bell 407, registration N555AS. The Sikorsky S-64E managed to conduct a hard landing. However, the Bell 407 crashed on a rocky hillside, killing the contract pilot and two firefighters on board.
“Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed, and tragically, all three members perished,” California Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher said during a press conference. “Our hearts go out to the families of these brave individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice while battling the inferno to protect our communities.”
In addition, the crash of the Bell 407 sparked a new wildfire around the crash site, which was later contained by firefighters.