From the C.P.:
LYTTON, B.C. — The search continues in the rushing waters of the Fraser River for an Ontario helicopter pilot whose aircraft crashed while fighting one of the many forest fires burning across British Columbia.
The Bell 212, piloted by 53-year-old Robert Christopher Woodhead of Stoney Creek, Ont., was operating as a waterbucket on the 12-square-kilometre Intlpam fire near Lytton late Friday afternoon when it went down.
The helicopter is now submerged in 15 metres of water flowing at about 16 kilometres per hour, but there’s no sign of Woodhead, who was the only person in the aircraft.
Woodhead’s family in Stoney Creek say they aren’t commenting on the search.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk of the RCMP says the federal Fisheries Department and a local search-and-rescue squad have boats on the water and a Mountie helicopter is searching from the air, but he says the water is too rough to use divers.
Moskaluk says witnesses reported seeing the pilot surface after the crash, prompting the Mounties to focus thier efforts on the water and riverbanks.
The B.C. Forest Service had contracted the chopper, which is the second aircraft the crash this fire season, although this is the first fatal crash.
A single-engine (air tanker) crashed into Okanagan Lake on July 25, but the pilot escaped without injury.
UPDATE at 5:10 p.m. MT, Aug. 15
The story has been updated by the Canadian press at 2:36 p.m. MT today. Here is an excerpt:
KELOWNA, B.C. — An Ontario helicopter pilot who was helping to fight one of British Columbia’s many forest fires was still missing Saturday, a day after another pilot flying overhead was unable to pull the man from the water in a dramatic rescue attempt.
Robert Christopher Woodhead, 53, of Stoney Creek, Ont., was operating a Bell 212 with a waterbucket Friday afternoon when the aircraft when down in the Fraser River near Lytton.
Woodhead, who was based in British Columbia, was last seen in the water just after the crash by another pilot who watched from the air as the helicopter went down, said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
“A valiant attempt was made by lowering his line and bucket into the river near Mr. Woodhead,” Moskaluk said in an interview.
“However, he was not successful in getting the line to him and did eventually lose visual sight of the pilot in the water.”
Moskaluk said police are still considering the search a rescue operation, and are concentrating their efforts on the riverbanks in what is considered a particularly rough part of the Fraser Canyon.