Helicopter Pilot Dies Fighting Wildfires

A helicopter pilot from Rancho Cucamonga died while helping with the wildfires near Fresno on Wednesday. 

CBS Local in Los Angeles reports that the victim has been identified as 52-year-old Michael John Fournier of Rancho Cucamonga.  

According to the report, search and rescue crews with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office recovered Fournier’s body from the wreckage of his Bell UH-1H Helicopter.  The registered owner of the helicopter is Guardian Helicopters of Filmore. The company currently has a firefighting contract with CAL Fire.

Officials say that Fournier was flying one of six helicopters that were being used to drop water on the Hills Fire. The wildfire has already engulfed more than 1500 acres of forest land.  During the mission, Fournier’s helicopter crashed at approximately 10:00 a.m. in an area of rough terrain about nine miles south of Coalinga. He was the only person on board the aircraft when it went down.

ABC affiliate, KFSN-TV reports that Fournier’s family members describe him as someone who would always put others before himself. According to Fournier’s father, Jack, his son, was tenacious about flying. He would work at the airport for an hour to get an hour of ground school.  “He wanted to fly when he was six years old, so he just had that drive.”

Because of the terrain where the crash occurred, it took a Cal Fire dozer crew to clear a path so that the 14-person rescue team could gain access to the wreckage of the helicopter.  

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash.  Officials say that NTSB investigators arrived at the crash site on Thursday morning.

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