Four killed in Blackhawk helicopter crash in Florida

FAA reports they were conducting fire water drop exercises

Leesburg Airport map
Leesburg Airport aerial photo. Google.

This article first appeared on

Updated at 7:39 p.m. EDT May 26, 2021

Preliminary information is now available from the FAA about yesterday’s fatal helicopter crash in Central Florida:

Aircraft conducting fire water drop exercises, lost control of the bucket causing the rotor section to separate, crashed in a wooded area, and caught on fire. Leesburg, FL.

The FAA reports there were four fatalities, one flight crew member and three passengers.

Local media is reporting city officials said the bodies all four crew members were recovered from the crash site and are in the custody of the medical examiner’s office. Their names have not been released.

The aircraft, N9FH, was a Sikorsky UH-60A, a Blackhawk registered to Brainerd Helicopters Inc. out of Leesburg, Florida. The police department described the owner as Brainerd Helicopters Inc./Firehawk Helicopters, located at Leesburg International Airport.

Brainerd has firefighting contracts with the Federal government and other organizations.

We extend our sincere condolences to the families, friends, and coworkers of the four individuals.

In 2017 I took photos of some of Brainerd’s Firehawks at their facility in Boise.

10:57 a.m. EDT May 26, 2021

A Blackhawk helicopter crashed Tuesday afternoon near Leesburg International Airport in Central Florida. The incident was reported at 5:47 p.m. One fatality has been confirmed and the other three on board have not been found. A black column of smoke was seen at the crash site.

From the Leesburg Fire Rescue Facebook page Monday evening:

No survivors have been located. ONE confirmed death at this time. Most of the fire is under control now. US forestry is on scene plowing a line around the scene to prevent any vegetation fires. FAA has been notified of the crash and will start their investigation tomorrow.

The Miami Herald reported that the helicopter was on a firefighting training exercise.

Based on preliminary information, it appears that the helicopter went into a spin, and at some point its tail separated, Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi told WKMG, a TV station in the Orlando area.

“The tail actually went onto the airport runway area while the main body of the helicopter went into the wooded swampy area which is making it difficult for rescue crews to get back to,” Iozzi told the news station.

As this was written at 10:57 a.m. EDT May 26, the names of the personnel on board or the agency operating the helicopter have not been released.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Four killed in Blackhawk helicopter crash in Florida”

  1. Sorry to hear this. I worked with Brainerd for a number of years as a aircraft manager, helibase manger and on special projects with south Florida parks. Always a first class contractor. As a pilot myself this loss hits me hard.


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