Pilot dies after firefighting helicopter crashes near Coalinga, FAA & NTSB to investigate

Local News

COALINGA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) –A pilot was killed after a helicopter involved in firefighting operations crashed Wednesday morning near Coalinga, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Bell UH-1 helicopter crashed under unknown circumstances 11 miles south of New Coalinga Municipal Airport around 10 a.m., said Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman.

The helicopter was confirmed to have belonged to a company contracted to make water drops on the Hills Fire burning in the hills near Coalinga, said Cal Fire spokesman Seth Brown. The crash site is in a remote area southwest of the blaze.

The crash caused a brush fire, which then merged with the Hills Fire.

Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s search and rescue team was requested to the area of Lost Hills Road and Sutter Avenue around 11:15 a.m., said Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti. They were needed to search the rugged terrain for survivors.

Authorities say the pilot was the only person abroad the helicopter.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident.

No other information was immediately available.

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