Multiple Dead After Mid-Air Collision

Multiple Dead After Mid-Air Collision

( – Wildfire season is raging in California, and more than 112,000 acres have burned this year so far. Firefighters regularly put their lives on the line to battle them. Multiple people are now dead after an air accident between helicopters responding to one of the blazes.

On August 6, around 7:20 p.m., crews were working to extinguish a brush fire on Native American land in Riverside. Two firefighting helicopters, a Sikorsky S-64E and Bell 407, collided while responding to the fire. The Bell 407 crashed to the ground, killing the three first responders on board.

The Riverside Sheriff’s Department identified the victims as Pilot Tony Sousa, 55, Cal Fire Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, 46, and Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez, 44. The helicopter they were in was being used to observe the fire, while the other aircraft was much larger and capable of dropping fire retardant or water.

The day after the crash, Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher held a news conference to give an update on the incident. He said he didn’t know if the larger helicopter was loaded at the time of the accident.

Rodriguez served the community for 19 years, and Bischof served for 24 years. Bischof was recently promoted to assistant chief. He worked at March Air Reserve Base at the Southern Region Operations Center.

Silvio Lanzas, a former fire official, praised Rodriguez and Bischof on social media, saying they “were the absolute best the fire service” had. He said they were both “[d]evoted fathers, husbands, leaders, mentors, friends, and absolute warriors on the fireground.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking over the investigation into the crash. The day after the accident, investigators were already at the site trying to preserve evidence for its probe. Eleazar Nepomuceno, one of the investigators, told the press that they were looking for “perishable information” and trying to preserve it so that they could determine what caused the deadly accident.

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