COALINGA, Calif. (KGPE) — The pilot killed in a helicopter crashed in Coalinga Wednesday morning has been identified.
The helicopter involved in firefighting operations crashed under unknown circumstances 11 miles south of New Coalinga Municipal Airport around 10 a.m., said Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman.
The crash site was in a remote area southwest of the blaze.
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.
Authorities say the pilot was the only person abroad the helicopter and was later identified by family members as Mike Fournier, 52.
Search and Rescue members collected Fournier’s body at around 8:30 p.m. and say it took a total of 6 1/2 hours to get in and out of the scene, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
“We were experiencing 15, 20, 25 miles per hour winds, it’s very dusty as you can see very smokey in the area, the visibility is very low,” said Cal Fire Fresno’s Seth Brown.
The smoke blanketed the nearby city of Coalinga Wednesday.
“I feel bad for the family of this guy because they work very hard and it’s very sad,” said resident Carmen Balderas as she hosed down dust from her porch.
“They are out there putting their lives at risk for us so we can be good out here and they have a family at home and they are thinking of that too so I have big respect,” said Garcia.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.
The family of Fournier have created a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.