Multiple news outlets are reporting that a wildfire chopper crash in California late last night has claimed the lives of as many as nine firefighters, in what would be one of the largest losses of firefighters in recent memory.
The helicopter was carrying 11 firefighters and two crew members when it went down Tuesday night in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, the Associated Press reported.
Four people including a pilot were taken to hospitals with severe burns, including two in critical condition, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The chopper was shuttling firefighters into remote areas of the blaze.
The Oregonian reported
that the firefighters may have worked for Grayback Forestry
, a private firefighting contractor based in Merlin, Ore.
Grayback issued a statement late this afternoon confirming that at least three of its personnel had been injured, but did not advise on fatalities. The injured team members were listed as Michael Brown, 20, and Jonathan Frohreich, 18, who were transported to the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Rick Schoeder, 42, was admitted to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Calif. The condition and extent of their injuries is unknown at this time.
The Oregonian also reported that this would be the second large scale tragedy
for the company. On June 21, 2002, a van carrying 11 Grayback workers rolled over in eastern Oregon while on the way to a Colorado fire. Four people were killed outright and a fifth died later.
The NTSB issued the following statement
: The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a Go Team to investigate a helicopter crash in a remote wooded area about 35 miles northwest of Redding, California. The Sikorsky S-61N (N612AZ) operated by the U.S. Department of Forestry, crashed at about 7:30 p.m. PDT last night during takeoff. A post-crash fire ensued. Of the 13 people reported to be on-board, four suffered serious injuries; nine are unaccounted for and are presumed to be fatally injured.
Nine Charleston, S.C. firefighters were killed last year battling a furniture blaze, the largest loss of firefighters in a single incident since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which claimed 343 firefighters.
Firefighter Nation will add continuing coverage of this story including video, photo and story links as additional information comes in about those lost and injured.