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Tragic Collision Of Firefighting Helicopters Claims Three Lives In Southern California 

Two firefighting helicopters have collided while deploying to fight a wildfire in Southern California, killing all three people on board.

The incident happened in the desert about 137 kilometres east of Los Angeles and involved a huge Sikorsky S-64E and a smaller Bell 407.

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The fire started in a building in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, and soon spread to the surrounding area.

Cal Fire first received the fire report at about 6pm on Sunday. Within that hour, the blaze had rapidly expanded, encompassing approximately three acres. 

Within an hour, the agency said the fire had been successfully contained.

During an early Monday news conference, Southern Region Chief David Fulcher of Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, revealed that the three tragic fatalities occurred on board one of the helicopters. 

Chief Fulcher conveyed that amidst the collision, the other helicopter managed to make a safe landing. 

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According to ABC, the victims were Fire Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez, and contract pilot Tony Sousa.

There were no other reported injuries.

Chief Fulcher said both helicopters were under an “exclusive agreement” with Cal Fire and described the crash as a “tragic loss” for the community.

“We have lost three great individuals,” he said.

“Three fathers, three husbands, three friends, three sons.”  

Chief Fulcher said the collision caused a further four-acre fire but was soon extinguished. 

According to Cal Fire, a mid-air collision is extremely rare, especially involving highly experienced firefighters and pilots who are used to flying in extreme conditions and low altitudes.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash now.

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