Wednesday, August 06, 2008
9 Firefighters Killed in Chopper Crash
Carson 16 Originally uploaded by misterarrow
A Sikorsky S-61 Heavy-Lift Helicopter like the ship that crashed.
resource: KCRA3 (Sacramento)
JUNCTION CITY, Calif. -- Nine firefighters are missing and presumed to be dead after a firefighting helicopter crash in Trinity County according to the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday.
The chopper went down in the northwest sector of the so-called "Buckhorn Fire," one of a half dozen blazes being fought as part of the larger Iron Complex Fire. Four firefighters were badly burned in the crash, which took place at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday about 15 miles northwest of Junction City, west of Redding.
The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-61 "Fire King," was operating under contract to US Forest Service and was carrying 13 people -- including 11 firefighters and two crew members -- when it went down.
Ian Gregor, spokesman for the FAA, said the nine missing people are likely dead. Sharon Heywood, a Forest Service supervisor, confirmed fatalities but did not offer specifics.
Three of the injured fire personnel -- including the pilot -- were at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and were listed in critical or serious condition. The fourth firefighter remained at Mercy Medical Center in Redding and was listed in serious but stable condition.
The firefighters were in transit near the north end of the Buckhorn Fire, which has burned nearly 25 square miles. All 11 are employees of Grayback Forestry, Inc., a private firefighting contractor based in LaGrande, Orgeon. They were working as part of a multi agency task force working the Iron Complex.
The large, yellow helicopter was operated by Carson Helicopters, which has offices in Grants Pass, Ore., and Perkasie, Pa. Company spokesperson Bob Madden said that Carson is an established firm which, operates a large fleet of Sikorsky S-61 choppers.
"We don't know what occurred," Madden said. "We haven't examined the aircraft yet. We've never had a copter go down due to firefighting efforts."
The Sikorsky S-61 can transport 18 firefighters and drop up to 1,000 gallons of water via a bucket suspended from the bottom, Carson Helicopters said.
Grayback Forestry provides firefighting resources and services to clients such as USFS, BLM, USF&W. Last week, another Grayback firefighter lost his life when a large tree fell and crushed him. The company website acknowledges that three of its firefighters were injured in the crash, but makes no mention of the 9 missing or dead firefighters.
"This is a tragic day for firefighters everywhere and the people of California are profoundly aware of the tremendous sacrifices these heroes and their families make day in and day out to keep us safe," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "We are praying for the swift recovery of the victims and our hearts go out to their loved ones."
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are continuing their investigation into the crash. NIOSH and OSHA will investigate the firefighter deaths.
Watch Video of the Carson S-61 Fire King
BLOG Photo courtesy misterarrow