Nine presumed dead in helicopter crash in California, United States

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On Tuesday, a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter crashed northwest of Redding, California. The helicopter had been carrying 11 firemen who had been battling a wildfire just north of Junction City, and two crewmen. Eight of the firefighters and one of the crewmen are missing and presumed dead.

A Sikorsky S-61 similar to the one involved in the crash.
Image: MarekW.

Four out of the 13 members of the flight were rescued from the crash, though they received severe burns. Sharon Heywood, a United States Forest Service spokesperson said that the three firefighters and pilot had been initially airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. However, because of the critical condition of two of the firemen and the pilot, the three of them were transferred to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. The remaining firefighter remains at Mercy Medical Center in serious condition.

The helicopter, which is owned by Carson Helicopters, crashed "under unknown circumstances," according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The helicopter crashed 35 miles northwest of Redding in the Trinity Alp region, at roughly 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, said Gregor. Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on the scene of the crash.

The firefighters had been fighting flames covering more than 27 square miles in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. They had been working near the north end of the fire, which is reportedly 87% contained.