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Firefighting helicopters collide in midair, killing 3

Two helicopters collided in midair Sunday evening while battling a brush fire in a small town east of Los Angeles.
Firefighting helicopters collide in midair, killing 3
Posted at 5:27 AM, Aug 07, 2023

Two helicopters responding to a brush fire in Riverside County, California, collided Sunday evening, killing three people on board one of the helicopters, David Fulcher of Cal Fire said. 

At a media briefing early Monday, Fulcher said that one of the helicopters was able to land safely. All three on board the other helicopter died. No one on the ground was injured.

Cal Fire identified those killed as Cal Fire Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, 46, Cal Fire Capt. Tim Rodriguez, 44, and contract pilot Tony Sousa, 55.

"We have lost three great individuals," Fulcher said, adding that he was thankful the incident was not any worse. 

Fulcher said the crash also caused a 4-acre fire, which was quickly extinguished.

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The fire started in a structure in the Riverside County community of Cabazon. It spread to surrounding vegetation, prompting a response from Cal Fire. Firefighters were able to control the original blaze late Sunday evening. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. 

So far in 2023, Cal Fire has responded to 3,880 wildfires. The department has a fleet of helicopters capable of spreading water and retardant on fires. 

Cabazon is located about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. The town was also the site of the 2006 Esperanza Fire, which caused the deaths of five firefighters. 

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