Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

Firefighter Helicopter Crash

Nine Firefighters Die, Four Injured in Helicopter Crash near Redding

By Carter P. Spohn

Nine firefighters died and four others were seriously injured on August 5th when a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter crashed in remote Trinity County, northwest of Redding. The chopper was carrying 11 firefighters and 2 crew members to battle a blaze in a wooded area near Junction City, about 215 miles northwest of Sacramento. The crash occurred around 7:30pm as the helicopter was taking off for duty. Federal Aviation Administration officials stated the Sikorsky S-61 was engulfed in flames after crashing “under unknown circumstances.” Preliminary reports indicate that weather and visibility are not believed to have been factors contributing to the crash.

According to the Air National Guard, the four injured were transported around 9pm Tuesday to the Mercy Medical Center in Redding. Three were later transferred to UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Two of the firefighters are listed in critical condition, and two are listed in serious condition.

The Sikorsky S-61 helicopter is owned by Carson Helicopters, which owns 12 helicopters which are used in firefighting efforts. The U.S. Forestry Department operated the helicopter. The military-style Sikorsky S-61 is a heavy helicopter equipped to carry water or fire-retardant chemicals to drop on a fire, or transport equipment and firefighters. The helicopter is capable of carrying up to 15 passengers. The pilot is listed as one of the injured and hospitalized; the co-pilot is currently listed as missing.

National Guardsmen and civilian pilots aided with the rescue efforts. FAA and NTSB investigators are enroute to the scene.

Aviation attorney Charles M. Finkel of Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy resides in Redding and commutes to the Century City offices of Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy by piloting a private plane. His weekly commute takes him directly over the site of the fire these firemen were battling. Mr. Finkel is a burn survivor who suffered burn injuries in an aviation accident. He donates his plane and his time to Angel’s Flight, a charitable organization that transports injured patients for medical treatment.

Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy has investigated and litigated cases involving Sikorsky helicopters and is currently representing clients in other helicopter accident cases. Two of the firm’s attorneys are general aviation pilots while one of our attorneys flew helicopters in Vietnam. The firm extends our deepest sympathy to those lost and injured in this tragic accident.

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