Fatal CALFIRE Helicopter Mid-Air Collision Leaves 3 Dead
Three crew members of a CALFIRE helicopter died on Sunday evening after their aircraft collided with another helicopter while fighting a fire in Cabazon, California. The victims were identified as Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez, and Pilot Tony Sousa.
According to CALFIRE Southern Region Chief David Fulcher, the two helicopters were engaged in firefighting when they collided mid-air around 6 p.m. The first helicopter, an air attack Sikorsky S-64E Sky Crane, was able to land safely. The second helicopter, a Bell 407 serving as an command and control platform, crashed and burst into flames, killing all three aboard.
The collision is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Fulcher expressed his deepest sympathy to the families and co-workers of the personnel and called it a "tragic loss".
The helicopters were responding to a grassland fire that broke out near Cabazon, about 90 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The fire was quickly contained and did not threaten any structures or cause any additional injuries.
This is the first fatal incident of California's 2023 fire season, which has been relatively mild so far due to wet weather conditions earlier in the year. However, experts warn that the risk of wildfires will increase as the climate warms and fuels dry.
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