Mid-air collision of firefighting helicopters leaves 3 dead

 August 8, 2023

Wildfires in Southern California have claimed many lives in past years, but numerous other risks are associated with fighting them, including using the equipment to fight them.

According to Just The News, tragedy struck the Southern California firefighting community recently after two firefighting helicopters collided in mid-air, resulting in three fatalities.

One of the helicopters managed to land safely after the rare, mid-air collision, but the other helicopter and its crew were not able to do the same, resulting in the deaths of two firefighters on board and a contracted helicopter pilot.

Just The News reported:

The deceased include a California Fire Division chief, a California Fire captain and a contracted pilot, Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher said early Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Unfortunately, the collision also resulted in a separate four-acre fire, but it was quickly extinguished.

Video footage of part of the crash scene was uploaded to social media, showing the extent of the collision.

"An urgent investigation is underway after two firefighting helicopters collided midair in Southern California, killing all three people – including two high-ranking officials. They were part of six aircrafts battling a small fire," World News Tonight tweeted.

"Although this was a tragic event, we are also thankful today that it wasn’t worse," Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher said. "The individuals in the first helicopter were able to land safely without incident and no one else was hurt."

The Associated Press noted:

The Bell helicopter was being used for observation and coordination, Fulcher said. The Sikorsky can drop water or retardant on fires. Fulcher said he did not know whether it was loaded at the time of the crash.

An investigation is ongoing, and the AP published the identities of the deceased.

"The victims were Cal Fire Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, 46, Cal Fire Capt. Tim Rodriguez, 44, and contract pilot Tony Sousa, 55," AP noted.