FRESNO, Calif. – A helicopter pilot involved in fighting fires in California died Wednesday when the aircraft crashed near Coalinga, authorities said.
According to Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Ian Gregory, the Bell UH-1 helicopter was helping to fight the Hills Fire when it crashed around 10 a.m., about 11 miles south of New Coalinga Municipal Airport, the Fresno Bee reported.
In a statement, Cal Fire said the helicopter crashed while it was on a water-dropping mission on the Hills Fire in western Fresno County. The blaze has been burning in the area since Saturday and has consumed 1,500 acres and is 35% contained, KGO reported. Winds of 26 mph have been clocked in the area, with gusts to 35 mph.
The impact of the helicopter crash ignited a new brush fire, Gregory told reporters.
The pilot, who was not identified, was the only person aboard the helicopter, according to Cal Fire officials.
“There was one person on board, they did not survive,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Los Angeles Times.
Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti said the department’s search and rescue team assisted in the search for survivors, the Bee reported.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, with the NTSB in charge of determining the probable cause of the crash, the newspaper reported.