Three Killed In California Helicopter Midair


Three crew were killed Sunday night in a midair collision between two Cal Fire helicopters fighting a blaze near Riverside, according to a Cal Fire spokesman. All three—a pilot and two firefighters—were in a Bell 407 being used as a command and observation aircraft. The second helo, a Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane with two aboard, landed safely.

“Although this was a tragic event, we are also thankful today that it wasn’t worse,” Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher told media outlets on Sunday. “The individuals in the first helicopter were able to able to land safely without incident and no one else was hurt,” he added. The 407 crashed and started another small fire, according to authorities.

The fire started as a structure fire but soon spread to vegetation in the area, prompting the call for Cal Fire air resources. While attempting to suppress the fire, the two helicopters collided. The 407 was flown by a contract pilot and also aboard were a Cal Fire division chief and a fire captain. Both fires were extinguished shortly after the crash, which occurred near Cabazon late Sunday afternoon. Cal Fire has its own fleet of 60 aircraft, but also contracts with private companies for additional firefighting support.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Blancolirio
    Cabazon/Banning CA Aug 6, 2023
    Cal Fire Helco Midair Collision

    Sad, RIP brothers.

  2. Contract Helo was also painted “silver, grey”. Not a good color for firefighting. Maybe they should only contract “bright” colored aircraft. See and avoid is a lot easier when you can “see it”.

  3. Unclear if any of the other air assets had yet arrived on scene, in particular the fixed-wing aircraft with the “air boss” who would have assumed overall coordination of the air activity, but my understanding is the Bell 407 would have specifically been assisting the air boss with up-close observation & control of the low-altitude helicopter dropship(s). It’s a complex dance and sadly one or more missteps occurred.