COALINGA, California (KGPE) — Investigators are trying to get answers for a fallen pilot that died during a helicopter crash in Coalinga on Wednesday.
The Fresno Sheriff’s Office confirmed 52-year-old Michael Fournier from Rancho Cucamonga died during the crash.
Fournier was a contracted pilot through Guardian Helicopters to help firefighters put out the Hills Fire, which is located 10 miles south of Fresno.
The National Transportation Safety Board is the lead in the incident investigation but a spokesperson said investigators will not travel to Coalinga because of the pandemic. CalFire will help recover the helicopter, but Spokesperson Seth Brown said it won’t be easy.
“The road is not well-traveled,” said Brown. “Very rugged terrain. We are trying to improve that road with the equipment we already had on the scene. Using grazers, bulldozers, water trucks. So the actual investigative team can make it out to the incident.”
Fournier’s two daughters and wife devastated by the loss.
“It is not going to be the same without him,” said his daughter Riley. “He changed so many people’s lives for the best and people are going to miss him so much.”
Michael Fournier was a man of many trades. He was a former San Diego TV news chopper pilot, a football coach, and above all a loving father and husband.
“Anytime he left he made sure he kissed us,” said his wife LeAnn Fournier. “Hugged us, and told us he loved us.”
Tracking video from Flight Radar 24 showed around 10:30 a.m., the pilot left the blaze and headed up north, and then for an unknown reason, the chopper disappeared. Scanner traffic from the area around the same time documented how hard it was to see because of the smoke.
“I am returning the tankers to Porterville right now because I do not feel safe dropping them because I cannot see them clear enough,” could be heard on broadcastify.com.
The GoFundMe has been set up for the family and has already raised over 35,000 dollars.