In an effort to put out a brush fire in Riverside County, California, two firefighting helicopters collided in the air, killing three people.
The incident occurred about 7:20 p.m. local time as firefighters battled a blaze on 20 acres of Native American territory close to Cabazon, according to a post on social media from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.
The collision happened close to the intersection of Apache Trail and Pipeline Road. The helicopter’s collision with a mountainside claimed the lives of the pilot and two other crew members.
According to KABC, the second chopper made a hard landing, but no significant casualties were mentioned.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection hired the helicopter that was involved in the crash. A department captain, division chief, and contract pilot were among the three crew members who perished.
“I would like to express our deepest sympathies and sorrow to the family and coworkers of the personnel,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection southern region chief David Fulcher said. “This was a tragic loss for the fire service community and Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Department.”
A witness claimed to have seen the helicopters clash before to the incident, according to FOX 11 LA.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are looking into the crash, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection fire captain and spokesperson Richard Cordova.