3 killed after firefighting helicopter crashes in Riverside County following midair collision

ByLeanne Suter and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Monday, August 7, 2023
Chopper crashes while battling brush fire in Riverside County
A firefighting helicopter crashed Sunday night while battling a brush fire in Riverside County, fire officials say.

CABAZON, Calif. (KABC) -- Three people were killed Sunday after two firefighting helicopters collided in midair while battling a brush fire in Riverside County.

One chopper crashed into a hillside, killing the pilot and two crew members aboard. The second aircraft made a hard landing, resulting in no serious injuries.

"I would like to express our deepest sympathies and sorrow to the family and coworkers of the personnel," said David Fulcher, southern region chief for Cal Fire. "This was a tragic loss for the fire service community and Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Department."

The collision happened as crews were battling the Broadway Fire near Cabazon. That blaze started as a building fire that ignited nearby brush and spread to several acres before firefighters were able to get it under control.

The crash was reported in the area of Pipeline Road and Apache Trail, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office.

The three crew members killed were described as a contract pilot, a Cal Fire division chief and a Cal Fire captain.

Firefighters responded after a helicopter crashed while fighting a brush fire in Riverside County.

The helicopter was operating on a contract basis for firefighting agencies.

"We do know it was a CWN helicopter, which is a call-when-needed helicopter," said Richard Cordova, spokesman for Cal Fire Riverside. "We utilize these helicopters to help us on bigger incidents throughout the state. We also utilizie these helicopters to boost our air program throughout the state."

The Broadway Fire was reported in the area of Broadway and Esperanza avenues. It had spread to at least three acres.

The NTSB and FAA are investigating the cause of the crash.