REDDING, Calif. (CN) – A Sikorsky S-61 helicopter crashed into the Trinity National Forest and caught fire just after takeoff, killing eight firefighters and the pilot as it rolled down rugged terrain. It was the most deadly crash of a firefighting aircraft in California history, and one of the worst in the country. The first legal claim has been filed in the Aug. 5 tragedy.
The lightning-caused Buckhorn fire was part of the Iron Complex, a series of fires that burned for almost 3 months, charring more than 100,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
Four other people were seriously injured in the helicopter crash. Two emerged from the chopper on fire and a third went back to rescue a fourth.
The family of the late Scott Charlson seeks punitive damages from Carson Helicopters, United Technologies, Sikorsky Aircraft, and General Electric. The wrongful death complaint in Shasta County Court alleges design and manufacturing flaws and negligent maintenance.
They are represented by Todd Macaluso of Carlsbad and James Frantz of San Diego. The attorneys told the Eureka Times-Standard that major components in the transmission may have caused the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report stated that the main rotor lost power.
Charlson was working with firefighters from Greyback Forestry of Oregon. The 18,500-acre Buckthorn fire was only 25 percent contained the day of the crash, when exhausted firefighters caught a ride on a Carson Helicopter back to base camp.