Fire officials confirmed that a firefighting helicopter crashed after it collided with a second helicopter while battling a blaze in Southern California, killing all three crew members. The victims have been identified as Division Chief Josh Bischof, Capt. Tim Rodriguez and pilot Tony Sousa, Cal Fire said. Sousa was a contracted pilot and not a Cal Fire employee.
Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher said that the crash occurred after Riverside County firefighters were called to the scene of a structure fire in Cabazon at about 6 p.m. on Sunday, and Cal Fire helicopters and planes were called in to help extinguish the blaze. Fulcher said at a news conference: “While engaged in the firefight, two helicopters collided. The first helicopter was able to land safely nearby. Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed and, tragically, all three members perished.”
Both helicopters were contracted by Cal Fire and arrived at the scene with different objectives. The helicopter which was able to safely land was a Sikorsky Skycrane, a type that carries retardant or water that’s dropped on a blaze, Fulcher said. The one that crashed was a Bell helicopter, used for observation while fighting fires. The crash caused an additional four-acre fire, which was then extinguished, Fulcher said.
Fulcher said that the cause of the collision was still under investigation, with the National Transportation Safety Board investigating the crash. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a post on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter, that his office was in “close coordination” with CalFire after the helicopter crash.
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