De@dly Midair Helicopter Crash Claims Lives of 3 Firefighters in California

All three crew members were killed when a firefighting aircraft combating a fire in Southern California collided with another chopper. According to Cal Fire, the victims have been named Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, Captain Tim Rodriguez, and Pilot Tony Sousa. Sousa was a hired pilot, not a member of the Cal Fire staff.

Around 6 p.m. PT on Sunday, Riverside County firefighters were rushed to the scene of a building fire in Cabazon when they discovered the blaze had spread to the neighboring grass, according to Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher. Cal Fire helicopters and planes were requested to assist in putting out the blaze.

“While engaged in the firefight, two helicopters collided,” Fulcher said at a news conference. “The first helicopter was able to land safely nearby. Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed and, tragically, all three members perished.”

Mid-air collisions are incredibly uncommon, especially when highly skilled firefighters and pilots are involved who are accustomed to flying in challenging circumstances and at low altitudes.

The tweet below confirms the news:

Both helicopters were hired by Cal Fire and arrived at the location with different goals. According to Fulcher, the helicopter that reached the ground safely was a Sikorsky Skycrane, a model used to dump water or fire retardant on blazes. A Bell helicopter employed for firefighting and observational purposes crashed.

The crash started a four-acre fire that was later put out. Pilots and planes will continue battling fires all around California on Monday. In a statement, California Governor Gavin Newsom expressed his condolences to the families, friends, and CAL FIRE coworkers who were grieving the deaths of Assistant Chief Bischof, Fire Captain Rodriguez, and Pilot Sousa.

This horrible incident reminds us of the perils our brave firemen encounter daily as they work to keep our communities secure. We shall always honor their bravery and sacrifices and owe them tremendous respect and thanks.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement: “Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies are with the loved ones, friends and CAL FIRE colleagues mourning the loss of Assistant Chief Bischof, Fire Captain Rodriguez, and Pilot Sousa. This terrible tragedy is a reminder of the dangers our courageous firefighters face daily while working to keep our communities safe. We owe them our deepest respect and gratitude and will always honor their bravery and sacrifices.”

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