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

More in Local News

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

April Berg, left, and John Lovick
Snohomish County legislators talk race, policy in Seattle

Rep. April Berg and Sen. John Lovick chatted about Tyre Nichols and education at an event kicking off Black History Month.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Switzerland delegate Markus Herrmann listens while 12th grade students speak with him during a special event set up for their AP Comparative Government class at Glacier Peak High School on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
European delegates talk American culture with Glacier Peak students

Representatives from 18 different EU countries made a stop in Snohomish during their US tour.

Community Transit is leasing a 60-foot articulated BYD battery electric bus this year as an early step in the zero emission planning process. (Community Transit)
Community Transit testing 60-foot electric bus

The agency leased the BYD K11M for $132,000 this year as the first step in its zero-emission planning process.

Most Read