Pilots killed in mid-air collision while fighting Bishop Fire
CALIENTE, Nev. (AP) — Two small air-tankers collided in mid-air in southeast Nevada on Thursday while battling a growing wildfire about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas.
The pilots were the only people on board the single-engine planes that collided about 1 p.m. during a mission attacking flames on the fire about 17 miles (27 kilometers) southwest of Caliente, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Their condition wasn’t immediately known. A Lincoln County sheriff’s dispatcher had no information Thursday evening.
The Bureau of Land Management says the fire broke out Wednesday in Rainbow Canyon. It more than doubled in size on Thursday and has burned an estimated 20 square miles (26 square kilometers) of small timber and grass.
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The agency said no structures were immediately threatened.
More than 250 firefighters were battling the blaze in near-record heat. Smoke was visible in southwest Utah.
Gregor said the accident occurred near the intersection of Kane Springs Road and Riggs Road. Fire officials had said earlier one of the priorities Thursday was to keep the flames from spreading west of Riggs Road.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating. Gregor said the FAA would assist, but that the NTSB would determine the probable cause of the crash.
“A mid-air collision involving two Department of the Interior-contracted Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) occurred on the Bishop Fire, approximately 17 miles southwest of Caliente.
The incident occurred at approximately 12:55 p.m. today, July 30. Both pilots were killed in the crash. Recovery operations are currently underway and initial notifications are still being made.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the BLM Nevada Ely District,” said BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby.
SEATs are small airplanes used to support firefighters on the ground. They can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant and operate in areas where larger airtankers cannot. Contract pilots play an important role in wildland firefighting efforts as the BLM protects the public, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and other values and resources.
The incident is under investigation.”
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