Nine Dead In Helicopter Crash; Skyhawk Hits House In Oregon

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A Sikorsky S-61N helicopter used by the U.S. Department of Forestry to fight fires crashed at about 7:30 p.m. local time Tuesday in a remote wooded area about 35 miles northwest of Redding, Calif. Of the 11 firefighters and two pilots reported to be on board, nine were unaccounted for and presumed dead and four with serious injuries were taken to hospitals, the NTSB and news reports said on Wednesday. The helicopter was destroyed in a post-crash fire. It was owned and operated by Carson Helicopters, based in Grants Pass, Ore. Bob Madden, a spokesman for the company, said preliminary indications suggested that neither weather nor visibility should have played a role in the crash. The S61 can be outfitted to carry water or fire-retardant chemicals to drop on a fire, he said, or to transport up to 15 passengers. On Monday morning, a Cessna 172 crashed into a vacation home on the Oregon coast near Portland, killing three children in the house and two adults in the airplane. Three other people in the house were seriously hurt.

Conditions were reported as foggy with low clouds when the airplane crashed before 7 a.m., shortly after taking off from Seaside Airport, about a mile away. Several explosions occurred after the crash. Fatalities on the ground caused by light GA aircraft are "exceedingly rare," according to Bruce Landsberg of AOPA's Air Safety Foundation.