Three killed in crash of firefighting copter

Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. – A twin-engine firefighting helicopter assigned to the largest wildfire in Montana crashed in a brushy ravine on a ranch Friday, killing all three crewmen.

The chopper assigned to the 25,500-acre Fridley fire crashed at about 8 a.m. PDT in the Emigrant Peak area between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park, fire and Federal Aviation Administration officials said.

Later in the day, a wildfire some 340 miles north swept into Glacier National Park, Montana’s crown jewel.

The crash killed pilot Rich Hernandez, 37, who was from Lake Tahoe area on the Nevada-California border; co-pilot Santi Arovitx, 28, from Hillsboro, Ore.; and crew chief Kip Krigbaum, 45, of Emmett, Idaho.

The names were released by Columbia Helicopters Inc., the Oregon owner of the helicopter. The crew had been fighting fires since April, said Michael Fahey, a Columbia spokesman.

The helicopter went down during a routine maintenance flight to check its condition, Columbia spokesman Jon Lazzaretti said from Aurora, Ore., the Portland suburb where the company is based.

Although the helicopter was not actively fighting the Fridley fire at the time of the crash, an 1,100-gallon bucket used to drop water on the fire was attached, Lazzaretti said.

Wreckage was scattered widely around the crash site along Emigrant Creek, about five miles east of the Fridley fire. A small fire started by the crash was extinguished quickly, said Warren Bielenberg, information officer for the Fridley fire.

The Vertol 107, with a 44-foot fuselage and a rotor at each end, was among the largest of the 15 helicopters assigned to the blaze. The chopper was a Boeing model manufactured by Kawasaki under license.

In northwestern Montana, afternoon wind ushered the Moose fire across the North Fork of the Flathead River and into Glacier National Park. The fire was burning on the park’s Huckleberry Mountain, about 15 miles north of Columbia Falls.

A leap by a fireball advanced the blaze into the park, said Wayne Johnson, a fire information officer. The estimated size of the Moose fire rose to 22,000 acres, up from 17,000 earlier in the day, Johnson said.

“It’s kicking butt,” fire spokesman Bob McKinney said. “That’s all you can say right now.”

The Fridley and Moose fires were among four major wildfires in the state Friday.

Nationally, some 19,000 firefighters faced 22 major fires Friday, burning on more than 222,000 acres. However, the National Interagency Fire Center said containment was near on several major fires. Both the California fire that once threatened the small mining town of Weaverville and the huge 74,000-acre Virginia lakes complex of fires in Washington state were reported at 90 percent containment early Friday.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Deputy prosecutors Bob Langbehn and Melissa Samp speak during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

Lynnwood
New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Authorities found King County woman Jane Tang who was missing since March 2 near Heather Lake. (Family photo)
Body of missing woman recovered near Heather Lake

Jane Tang, 61, told family she was going to a state park last month. Search teams found her body weeks later.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
‘We are heartbroken’: Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Boeing pushes back on Everett whistleblower’s allegations

Two Boeing engineering executives on Monday described in detail how panels are fitted together, particularly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.