Video posted on social media shows the aftermath of a mid-air collision between two firefighting helicopters in California that left three people dead.
The helicopters collided on Sunday evening while battling the Broadway Fire in Cabazon, officials said.
“The first helicopter was able to land safely nearby,” Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher said during a news conference early on Monday. “Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed and tragically all three members perished.”
Fulcher did not release their names, but said they were a Cal Fire Division chief, a Cal Fire captain and a contract pilot.
“I would like to express our deepest sympathies and sorrow to the family and coworkers of the personnel,” Fulcher said. “This was a tragic loss for the fire service community and Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Department.”
Video posted on X, formerly Twitter, of the crash scene showed a large burn area and what appears to be blade from a helicopter.
🚨#BREAKING: Two Firefighting helicopter has crashed in a mid air collision while fighting brush fire— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) August 7, 2023
📌#Cabazon | #California
Currently, there is a deadly incident in Cabazon, California that occurred this evening, where two firefighting helicopters collided in mid-air while… pic.twitter.com/t8kXt6VSy5
Fulcher said resources were sent to tackle a reported structure fire near the intersection of Broadway Street and South Ronda Avenue in Cabazon at around 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The fire was reported to have extended into the vegetation shortly after the arrival of the first engine company, Fulcher said, prompting the initiation of a full wildland fire dispatch—that included fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.
The two helicopters—both under an exclusive agreement with Cal Fire—collided while fighting that fire, Fulcher said. The crash caused an additional 4-acre fire, which was extinguished, he added.
“Although this was a tragic event, we are also thankful today that it wasn’t worse,” he said. “The individuals in the first helicopter were able to able to land safely without incident and no one else was hurt.”
The crash was reported in the area of Pipeline Road and Apache Trail at 7:20 p.m., the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a post.
“At 7:20 pm, RSO deputies responded to the area of Pipeline Road and Apache Trail in #Cabazon reference an air emergency,” the post said.
It added: “1 plane crashed at the location. The circs surrounding the crash are unknown at this time. The investigation is ongoing.”
The sheriff’s office said in another post that all future updates would come from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB is investigating “the Aug. 6 mid-air collision between a Bell 407 helicopter and a Sikorsky S-64E helicopter near Cabazon, California,” a spokesperson for the NTSB told Newsweek. “NTSB investigators are traveling to the scene.”