A helicopter operated by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office which was assisting a firefighters in tackling a wildfire in the US state of New Mexico on Saturday 16 July, crashed with four personnel aboard. Although operated by law enforcement, the Bell UH-1H Huey designated N911SZ, with the serial number 70-16431, was reportedly used regularly to provide aerial firefighting and assistance support across New Mexico.
In a statement, the Sheriff’s Office said: “Preliminary information indicates that three Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) personnel and one Bernalillo County Fire employee were onboard at the time of the crash,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “There are no known survivors. These personnel were headed back to Albuquerque after assisting fire crews with the East Mesa Fire. Representatives from BCSO are on scene along with the New Mexico State Police. At this time the investigation into this incident is in its preliminary stages.”
The four crew members were identified as Undersheriff Larry Koren; Lieutenant Fred Beers; Deputy Michael Levison; and Rescue Specialist Matthew King of Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue (BCFR).
On the day of the crash, the aircraft was recorded on FlightAware departing from Double Eagle II Airport northwest of Alberquerque’s central business district at around 13:53 hrs MDT.
It subsequently flew west for around 39 minutes in the direction of the East Mesa Fire, with its final location recorded at around 14:32 hrs as being approximately 25 miles northeast of Alberquerque and six miles southwest of Las Vegas. This was approximately 27 miles west of the fire.
The aircraft’s last reported elevation was approximately 7,300 feet, having been slowly descending from around 7,640 feet for around three minutes.
Air tanker pilot killed in Portugal
An air tanker pilot was also killed in a crash near the town of Torre de Moncorvo in northeast Portugal on Saturday while collecting water from the Douro River.
The pilot, André Serra, from Agromontiar, was the only person onboard the aircraft at the time of the crash. The aircraft was an Air Tractor AT-802AF Fire Boss operated by Titan Aerial Firefighting which had departed from Viseu-Gonçalves Lobato Airport earlier that day.
While it is currently unknown what caused the crash, photos of the aircraft before the event showed signs of severe damage. Authorities pronounced Serra dead at the scene upon arrival at the site of the crash.
In a statement following the incident, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said: “It was with great dismay that I became aware of the death of the pilot who operated an aircraft that crashed this afternoon. I send my deepest condolences to family and friends.”
Titan Aerial Firefighting also stated: “On behalf of the whole company, friends and colleagues say goodbye to you. We offer our deepest condolences to the relatives of André, a great professional and better person who has left us too soon. Rest in peace. Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Serra.”
Saturday’s crashes follow another incident on Wednesday 13 July, in which another firefighting incident came down in the Aegean Sea near the island of Samos, resulting in two fatalities.