In a tragic turn of events, a mid-air collision between two firefighting helicopters in Riverside County, California, resulted in three fatalities on Sunday evening. The incident occurred as the helicopters were battling a brush fire, around 7:20 p.m. local time.
The helicopters were deployed to control a fire that had spread across 20 acres of Native American land near Cabazon, as per the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. The collision transpired near Pipeline Road and Apache Trail, leading one of the helicopters to crash into a hillside. The crash claimed the lives of the pilot and two crew members on board.
The second helicopter, although it made a hard landing, reported no serious injuries. The crashed helicopter was contracted by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The victims were identified as a contract pilot, a department division chief, and a department captain.
Expressing his sorrow over the incident, David Fulcher, the southern region chief of Cal Fire, extended his deepest sympathies to the bereaved families and colleagues. He labeled the incident as a tragic loss for the fire service community, Cal Fire, and the Riverside County Fire Department.
Eyewitness accounts suggest that the helicopters collided before the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have initiated an investigation into the incident, as confirmed by Richard Cordova, a fire captain and spokesman for Cal Fire.