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Southern California Helicopter Collision Results in 3 Fatalities

A six-ship dispatch mobilized to the blaze 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

The incident took place near Cabazon, California [Adobe Stock]

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the midair collision of two firefighter helicopters in California that killed three people on Sunday.

According to multiple media sources, the two helicopters, a Bell and a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, were part of a six ship response to a fire in Cabazon, a small community in Riverside County approximately 90 miles east of Los Angeles. The initial fire call was for a structure fire, but it quickly spread to the dry grass and scrub brush nearby.

The three souls lost were aboard the Bell helicopter, which was used in an observation and coordination role when it collided with the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane. The latter are often used to drop water or fire retardant.

The Bell crashed on a hillside, touching off another blaze that grew to 4 acres before it was extinguished. The names of the three people killed had not been released by publication time. They were, however, identified as the contract pilot, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) chief, and a CAL FIRE captain. 

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The Sikorsky made a hard landing, but no injuries were reported.The NTSB and FAA are investigating the accident.

This is an evolving story that FLYING will continue to follow.

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