Witness: air tanker’s landing gear was down before crash into lake

A local resident who saw the single engine amphibious air tanker crash on a lake in British Columbia on Saturday said the Air Tractor 802F’s landing gear was down when it attempted to scoop water to refill its tanks.

Canwest news service

From the Canadian Press:

A father and his son defying an evacuation order to save their waterfront home from a raging forest fire instead ended up in a race to save a waterbomber pilot whose plane had crashed into the lake.

Ed Hall and his son Fraser chose not to leave when 2,200 of their neighbours were ordered to do so on Thursday and the Terrace Mountain fire spread in the hills across the lake from Vernon.

Fraser Hall said he was testing out some new video equipment Saturday, filming as the planes dipped into the lake to get water to dump on the fire.

“And this last guy came in and we looked at each other and said ‘Oh my gosh he’s got his landing gear down,’ and we knew this was a recipe for disaster,” Ed Hall said in an interview Sunday.

The pair watched in stunned amazement as the plane somersaulted along the water.

“But fortunately, the cockpit landed cockpit up. So the pilot was sitting in the cockpit, you know, kind of stunned or dazed or maybe he was unconscious, we’re not sure,” the father said.

Ed said he was already on his way to his boat before the plane hit the water.

An officer in a nearby RCMP zodiac boat arrived at the same time as the Halls and the pilot was pulled out within seconds.

While the officer took the slightly-injured pilot to receive care, the Halls attached a tow rope to the plane, attempting to salvage the plane.

“It went poorly,” Fraser Hall explained. “We were slowly pulling it along and we got about maybe 50 feet and the body slipped off the remainder of one of the pontoons and it headed for the bottom.”

Luckily, he said, the rope snapped, or their boat may have been dragged down with it.

Air tanker crashes in lake in B.C.

CBC news in Canada is reporting that an air tanker crashed in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia while working on the Terrace Mountain fire.

From CBC news:

Canwest News Service

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood said the pilot is expected to survive. The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined, Yearwood said.

Bruce Freeborn, who lives along the lake in Fintry Delta, said he was working in his yard Saturday when he heard a loud bang and saw the plane in the water.

“Its nose was under [the water] and its tail section was still up and the tip of one wing was still up,” Freeborn said, adding it was upsetting to see the plane go down when fire crews are struggling to save his home from the blaze.

CTV.ca has more information:

Conair photo

An airtanker plane engaged in fighting forest fires in West Kelowna, B.C., crashed into Okanagan Lake on Saturday, CTV News has confirmed. The pilot was able to escape unhurt.

Rick Pedersen, a spokesman for Conair, said the plane flipped over at around noon while attempting to scoop up water from the lake. But Pedersen said he doesn’t know what caused this to happen.

The AT802 Fire Boss plunged into about 110 metres of water, prompting officials from the Canadian Aviation Safety Board to launch an investigation.

Another firefighter dies in Spain

Another firefighter has died on a wildland fire in Spain when the fire truck he was driving crashed into a ravine while he was responding to a fire in Teruel province.

This is the fifth fatality in Spain in the last few days. Four firefighters died on July 21 while working on a fire in the eastern Catalonia region.

TypicallySpanish has two videos of the fires in Spain. The second one has more images of the fires.

Firefighters take cover as an air tanker makes a drop on a fire near Collado Mediano, Spain, on Tuesday. (Pedro Armestre)

Four firefighters killed in Spain

news.sky.com

From news.sky.com:

Four firefighters have died and two others rushed to hospital with life-threatening burns on July 21 after tackling a blaze in the north of Spain. The firefighters were caught off-guard by a sudden change in wind direction.

The men were involved in efforts to extinguish a huge wildfire which has so far burned over 800 hectares of forest in a national park near Tarragona, in Catalonia. Local officials say the firefighters appear to have been caught off-guard by a sudden change in wind direction, which stoked the blaze.

“They were prepared, capable, qualified firefighters,” head of the Catalan regional government Jose Montilla said. “A change in meteorological conditions caused them to lose their lives.”

One of the two men who survived suffered burns to 75% of his body, while the other suffered burns to 50% of his body, a local government official told news radio Cadena Ser.

A water-dropping aircraft was called in to help fight the blaze as the municipality of Horta de Sant Joan came under threat.

But Spanish fire crews were stretched across the country battling a number of blazes. A fire burning near the town of Collado Mediano, northeast of Madrid, forced the evacuation of some 2,000 people before it was brought under control.

Wildfires in the regions of Cuenca and Ciudad Real also prompted local authorities to close stretches of roads. Forecasters said the strong winds which have fanned flames were expected to ease, but scorching temperatures – as high as 41 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country – would remain for several days.

Euronews has a good 51-second video report about the incident.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and co-workers of the firefighters.

Followup on fatal rapelling accident

The U. S. Forest Service has issued a Safety Alert as a result of the accident on July 21 in which Thomas Marovich fell 200 feet to his death during rapelling training.

No. FS 09-01

July 21, 2009

Subject: Rappel Operations Equipment and Procedural Check

Area of Concern: Rappel Operations

Distribution: Rappel Bases

Discussion: This morning at approximately 1015 PDT a rappel accident occurred resulting in a fatal fall of a Forest Service rappeller. The facts we have on hand are that the helicopter and crew were assigned to the Backbone incident on the Six Rivers, NF west of Redding, CA. The crew was conducting a routine rappel proficiency mission involving in a Bell 212 HP.

A Chief’s level accident investigation is being conducted. The Forest Service is a party to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Recommendation: We are advising all rappel units to review the Interagency Helicopter Rappel Guide (IHRG) Chapter 3, Rappel Equipment to assure that all rappel equipment meets the current standard. Also review Lesson Plan 7, Helicopter Mock-up on pages D-12 through D-16 of the IHRG.

Your review of equipment and procedures must be accomplished prior to the next operating period. The National Office is not calling for a stand-down of the rappel program at this time, until we can determine the specifics of what occurred and corrective actions to be taken. However, Region 5 has suspended all rappel activities until further notice.

The Safety Alert was signed by William C. Waterbury (AD Risk Management and Human Performance) and Ron Hanks (Chief, Aviation Risk Management and Training Systems).

The International Association of Wildland Fire reports that there have been 10 other wildland firefighter fatalities in the United States this year:

  • John C. Meyer, firefighter/mechanic, 01/03/09
  • John W. Adams, firefighter, Oklahoma,02/02/2009
  • William Roger Vorwark, firefighter, Missouri, 03/14/2009
  • Roger Hershner, pilot, Kansas, 03/08/2009
  • Gregory Carroll Cooke, firefighter, North Carolina, 03/21/2009
  • Heath Van Handel, pilot, Wisconsin, 04/08/2009
  • Dennis M. Simmons, firefighter, Kansas, 04/21/2009
  • Tom Risk, pilot, 04/25/09
  • Brian Buss, airtanker crew member, 04/25/09
  • Mike Flynn, airtanker crew member, 04/25/09

 

Fatal accident during training at Backbone fire

The Backbone fire on the Klamath National Forest in northern California issued this news release about 45 minutes ago:

Fatal Accident During Routine Training At the Backbone Helibase

WILLOW CREEK, Calif.– During a routine training exercise an individual was involved in an accident Tuesday morning. A Helicopter and its crew, who are assigned to the Backbone Fire, was conducting weekly skill proficiency acceptance training and was involved in an accident that took an individuals life.

At 10:10 this morning while performing a proficiency skill acceptance training, at the Backbone Helibase in Willow Creek, an individual fell and incurred fatal injuries. The training is required to be conducted weekly to insure the crew’s safety and proficiency.

Information is limited at this time and all names of individuals involved are being with held until notifications to families have been made. We will be happy to provide information as soon as it is available.

The individual was provided medical attention immediately at the scene. The Base medical staff, the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office, and the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Office were dispatched and involved in the initial response.

Our sincere condolences to the family and co-workers.

More information about the Backbone fire, which is being managed by a National Incident Management Team (NIMO), can be found at Inciweb.

UPDATE @ 6:43 p.m. PT, July 21

The Backbone fire issued a second news release at about 5:45 p.m. PT today:

WILLOW CREEK, Calif.– Thomas Marovich, 20, of Hayward California incurred fatal injuries when falling while performing routine rappel proficiency skill training, at the Backbone Helibase in Willow Creek.

Marovich was a second year apprentice with the Forest Service at the Modoc National Forest, and was working with the Chester Helitack Crew from the Lassen National Forest which was assigned to the Backbone Fire at the time of the accident.

At 10:10 this morning Marovich fell and incurred fatal injuries while performing the required training which is conducted at a minimum every 14 days to insure the crew’s safety and skill proficiency.

The individual was provided advance life support treatment immediately at the scene. The Base medical staff, the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office, and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office were involved in the response.

The Forest Service has mobilized an accident investigation team and is working with the National Transportation Safety Board.