CALIFORNIA: Two helicopters collided during firefighting efforts in Cabazon, Southern California, leading to the tragic loss of three lives, officials said on late Sunday night.
“The first helicopter managed to land safely nearby. Regrettably, the second helicopter crashed, resulting in the unfortunate demise of all three crew members,” Chief David Fulcher of CalFire’s Southern Region reported in a press conference.
Among the victims were a contracted pilot, a division chief from CalFire, and a CalFire captain, Chief Fulcher confirmed.
The helicopters were part of a response team comprising six aircraft dispatched to combat the Broadway Fire. Originating from a structure fire, the blaze had rapidly extended to nearby vegetation, explained the region’s chief.
Initial reports indicated that the Broadway Fire had engulfed approximately three acres by 6 p.m., as shared on a joint Twitter account representing CalFire and the Riverside County Fire Department. Quick action by firefighters contained its advance by shortly after 7 p.m.
Subsequent to the helicopter collision, a secondary fire, spanning four acres, was triggered but has since been successfully extinguished, Fulcher added. These unfortunate fatalities mark the outset of California’s 2023 fire season, according to CalFire data.
Chief Fulcher expressed deep condolences and sorrow, stating, “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and colleagues of the personnel. This loss is truly heart-wrenching for the community, the firefighting fraternity, as well as CalFire and the Riverside County Fire Department.”
The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a thorough investigation into the crash, Chief Fulcher confirmed. CNN has reached out to the agency for further details.
Situated in Riverside County, Cabazon lies approximately 90 miles east of Los Angeles.