A tragic incident unfolded Sunday evening in Riverside County, California, when two firefighting helicopters collided mid-air while battling a brush fire. The unfortunate event, which occurred around 7:20 p.m. local time, resulted in the death of three crew members.
The helicopters were engaged in extinguishing a fire that had engulfed 20 acres of Native American land near Cabazon, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. The collision happened near Pipeline Road and Apache Trail, causing one of the helicopters to crash into a hillside, killing the pilot and two crew members on board.
The second helicopter made a hard landing, and no serious injuries were reported. The helicopter involved in the crash was a contracted chopper for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The deceased crew members included a contract pilot, a department division chief, and a department captain.
David Fulcher, the southern region chief of Cal Fire, expressed his deepest condolences to the families and colleagues of the deceased. He described the incident as a tragic loss for the fire service community, Cal Fire, and the Riverside County Fire Department.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the helicopters collide before the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the incident, as confirmed by Richard Cordova, a fire captain and spokesman for Cal Fire.