Tragedy Strikes: California Firefighting Helicopter Crash Claims 3 Lives in Midair Collision

By Sterling Brown 3 Min Read

The crash occurred Sunday evening in Southern California.

In a tragic incident, a firefighting helicopter crash occurred during efforts to combat a blaze in Southern California. Sadly, all three crew members lost their lives when the helicopter collided with another one engaged in firefighting.The crash occurred Sunday evening in Southern California.

The victims have been identified as Division Chief Josh Bischof, Capt. Tim Rodriguez, and pilot Tony Sousa, according to Cal Fire. It’s worth noting that Tony Sousa was a contracted pilot, not a Cal Fire employee.

Investigators examining the rotor blades from one of the crashed helicopters on a burned hillside in Cabazon, California, on August 7, 2023.

The crash transpired while Riverside County firefighters were responding to a structure fire in Cabazon around 6 p.m. PT on Sunday. The fire had spread to nearby grass, prompting the deployment of Cal Fire helicopters and planes to help extinguish the flames.

Tragically, as they battled the blaze, the two helicopters collided, leading to this devastating incident. The first helicopter managed to land safely, but the second one crashed, resulting in the loss of all three crew members.

Cal Fire is currently investigating the exact cause behind this incident, which is notably rare considering the extensive experience of the firefighters and pilots involved.

Cal Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez died in midair collision

Both helicopters were contracted by Cal Fire, each serving different roles at the scene. The Sikorsky Skycrane, responsible for delivering retardant or water to combat fires, was able to land safely. On the other hand, the Bell helicopter, used for firefighting observation, crashed.

An aerial view of the site after a firefighting helicopter crashed in Riverside County, California, on Sunday, August 6, 2023.

Regrettably, the crash sparked an additional four-acre fire, though it was subsequently contained and extinguished. Despite the tragedy, pilots and aircraft will continue their vital role in responding to fires throughout California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom expressed his condolences, acknowledging the bravery and sacrifices of Assistant Chief Bischof, Fire Captain Rodriguez, and Pilot Sousa. He emphasized the dangers faced by firefighters and their immense contribution to community safety.

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