Florida firefighting helicopter crashes; no survivors found

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:
Smoke can be scene billowing from a helicopter crash at Leesburg International Airport in Lake County Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Credit: Leesburg Fire Rescue.

A firefighting helicopter carrying four people on a training exercise crashed near an airport in central Florida. At least one person was killed and the three others were unaccounted for, officials said.

The helicopter crashed into a marsh near Leesburg International Airport around 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a news release.

One body was recovered Tuesday night and no survivors have been found, Leesburg Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post.

“The crash appears to be a total loss,” the post said.

A search and rescue effort began immediately after the crash, but the crash site couldn’t be cleared because of hazards in the area, the Leesburg Police Department said in a news release Wednesday.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy within our wildland firefighting family,” said Florida Forest Service director Erin Albury. “These firefighters put themselves on the line to serve and protect the lives of others.”

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board issued separate news releases saying they will investigate.

The aircraft belonged to Brainerd Helicopters Inc./Firehawk Helicopters, located at Leesburg International Airport, the police department release said.

The company’s aircraft support efforts to fight wildfires and participate in other commercial activities, according to its website. An unidentified woman who answered the phone at the company on Wednesday said the company had no immediate comment.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said flags will be lowered to half-staff at all Florida Forest Service facilities in memory of the crash victims.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones and colleagues affected by this immeasurable loss,” Fried said. “These brave souls training to protect our communities will not be forgotten.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.