Las Vegas Sun

February 12, 2016

Fire chopper crashes

Pilot, five firefighters treated, return to blaze

A helicopter flying a five-man firefighting crew to the Spring Mountains blaze Saturday was forced to crash-land and tipped over on its side.

All five, plus the pilot, sustained minor injuries.

The crash came at 2 p.m. as the chopper approached a landing pad above Lovell Canyon within the fire's 9,500-acre burned area on the western slope of the mountain range.

The helicopter appeared to lose power during its landing approach and dropped to the ground near the landing pad. It tipped over immediately, heavily damaging its still-spinning main rotor.

All six persons aboard were air evacuated from the scene by another helicopter minutes after the forced landing.

They were flown directly to Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas.

Landing at the hospital's heliport, the firefighters and pilot were taken to the emergency room where they were examined by doctors, treated and released.

Fire information officer Ed Ciliberti said they had all returned the the fire scene by late afternoon.

The firefighters, identified as Dave Provencio, Mike Farrell, Heracio Ramos, Frank Cabral and Monty Mackey, had taken off minutes earlier from their base camp at the Sky Mountain Ranch in Lovell Canyon,

They were carrying shovels and other equipment to dig firelines, clear away brush and debris and dig perimeter clearings in advance of the moving blaze, Ciliberti said.

The helicopter flew an almost straight course up the mountain slope and was within feet of its intended landing pad when the mishap occurred, he said.

The crash site was near the northwest perimeter of the fireline, he added.

Meanwhile, rains Saturday helped some 500 weary firefighters stop the advancing blaze within 1 mile of the uppermost ridgeline of the mountain range.

The fire broke out Thursday afternoon. Its original cause has not been determined, but it is being termed the largest forest fire in the western United States thus far this year.

Cost of the fire and its containment has been estimated at more than $550,000, Ciliberti said.

The blaze is expected to be 100 percent contained by 6 p.m. Sunday, Ciliberti said.

After that point is reached, firefighting efforts will concentrate on direct suppression and containment of hot spots.

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