FAA: 9 missing, feared dead in fire copter crash

SAN FRANCISCO – Nine people are missing and feared dead in the crash of a helicopter that was carrying firefighters over a Northern California forest, officials said Wednesday.

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.

Four people were taken to hospitals with severe burns, including two in critical condition, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Sikorsky S-61 chopper was destroyed by fire after crashing “under unknown circumstances” in a remote mountain location, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. FAA and NTSB investigators were headed to the scene, about 215 miles northwest of Sacramento.

The nine were presumably killed in the fire that destroyed the helicopter, Gregor said.

Two of the injured were flown in critical condition to the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Forest Service spokesman Mike Odle said Wednesday. The other two were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding in serious condition, he said.

The firefighters had been working at the northern end of a fire burning on more than 27 square miles in the national forest, part of a larger complex of blazes that is mostly contained.

The helicopter was owned and operated by Carson Helicopters Inc., whose firefighting operations are based in Grants Pass, Ore. All 12 of the company’s helicopters are being used for firefighting in Oregon and California, said Bob Madden, Carson’s director of corporate affairs.

The helicopter’s two co-pilots were Carson employees, Madden said; one was hospitalized and the other was among the missing.

Before Tuesday’s crash, three firefighters had been killed while on duty in California this year, including one firefighter also assigned to battle the Shasta-Trinity blazes who was killed last month by a falling tree.

On July 2, a volunteer firefighter in Mendocino County died of a heart attack on the fire line. Another firefighter was killed July 26 in when he was burned while scouting a fire.

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