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S64 Crash

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This is a literal translation from "Le Figaro" today.


Condolances to the families.


ACCIDENT the pilots fought a fire of criminal origin


Two died in the crash landing of a water bomber helicopter


Ajaccio: Domenica Costa

[ August 27, 2004 ]



Two men lost the life as a combatant yesterday a fire of criminal origin. Arrived at the beginning of season on the island to take part in firefighting of forests, these two experienced pilots did not survive the crash landing of the water bomber helicopter (HBE) Air-Cranium which occurred Thursday morning with the small hamlet of Vix, on the commune of Ventiseri, in High-Corsican. Origins Canadian and French, they had left at dawn their base Bastia to fight in Ventiseri a fire of edge lit last Saturday which threatened, under the breath of winds violent one, to be propagated.



Many witnesses of the fall of the apparatus, affirmed that the Air-Cranium had just proceeded to a dropping on the fumerolles and moved towards the littoral to remake the full one when it carried out a fatal loop. "I had quietly sat in my garden when I heard the hubbub of a helicopter, explains Jacqueline Combes, whose villa dominates the field where the HBE was crushed. Then, there was a great crash of scrap and I saw this enormous helicopter igniting. It fell à.pic in a cloud of smoke."



According to first elements' of the investigation, immediately diligentée at the request of the minister of the Interior by the Office Accident of the Directorate-General of the civil aviation Inquires, a technical hitch could be at the origin of the drama. It would have been announced besides by the crew which had to disengage his mission to try to rejoin the base close to Solenzara. Moreover, several people attest to have seen the enormous helicopter losing a blade before leaving in gimlet and falling. On the ground, the remains of the apparatus, whose tail was propelled to more than 200 m of the carbonized cockpit, say some long on the violence of the crash landing, which was announced at 8 a.m. 48.



"It is a carnage", was satisfied to express with an emotion badly contained the prefect of Corsica, Pierre-Rene Lemas, who went on the spot to the semi-day to testify to his solidarity to the soldiers of fire. Dismayed by the tragedy, all the official present, in particular the president of High-Corsican Sdis, Alex Alessandrini, solemnly inclined themselves in front of the unrecognizable skins of the two pilots. As of the advertisement of their death, Domenica de Villepin as for him had addressed his condolences to their families. It is its ministry which rented for all the summer at the Hélipaca company, established in Fréjus (VAr), the Air-Cranium of great capacity which was crushed. Of American manufacture, this heavy helicopter, being able to carry with each one of its rotations 9 500 liters of water, had been presented like the floret of the reinforced device implemented by the government after the dramatic fires of 2003.



Last week, the apparatus had still proven its effectiveness on the insular reliefs by treating the fires violent one which devastated more than 1 700 hectares in High-Corsican. Of criminal origin, the fire which it fought yesterday will weigh of not to doubt on the conscience of its authors, liable if they are taken very heavy sanctions.

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  • 2 weeks later...

NTSB probes Air-Crane crash


There remain more questions than answers surrounding a fatal Erickson Air-Crane crash on the French island of Corsica two weeks after the fact.


A British Columbia pilot and his French co-pilot died the morning of Aug. 26 when the S-64E Air-Crane they were flying crashed near Solenzara Air Force Base near the village of Ventiseri. It had been fighting a fire and broke away from that because of a technical problem. The aircraft was owned by Erickson and chartered by the French Interior Ministry to battle fires on the French Mediterranean island.


Kerry Walchuk, 44, of Clearwater, B.C., flew for Erickson subsidiary Canadian Air-Crane. His co-pilot was Jacques Pierard. The helicopter was run by a French company, Helipaca, which in turn leased it from Erickson.


The Central Point firm has 18 remaining aircraft it operates or leases for logging and fire suppression efforts around the world. The rest of the Erickson fleet remains in service. Erickson President Ralph Torney declined comment on Wednesday.


The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which checks into all U.S. registered aircraft accidents no matter where they take place. The Sikorsky Skycrane frame was originally built in 1968, and after it was overhauled by Erickson it was re-certified in October 2002. The craft had been in France for a year, according to FAA records.


A good part of Walchuk’s career was spent logging in remote areas, according to the September 1998 issue of Canadia Forest Industries magazine. Air-tanker pilot Ted Hobart noted in a pilots’ association Web page that Corsica’s terrain presents some of the most difficult firefighting in the world because of mountain winds, downdrafts and shears.


A French Fk-27 fire bomber pilot, J.B. Arrieu Albertini, reported on the association Web page that the helicopter’s tail was found 200 meters from the rest of the airframe, which was completely burned.


The pilots were awarded a French medal of bravery and given full French military honors in a ceremony held Aug. 30, according to wire reports.


Erickson spokesman Dennis Hubbard said the investigation will likely take months and noted that a review of a crash involving a Carson Helicopter aircraft three years ago was still open.


According to the Mail Tribune archives, the last crash involving an Erickson Air-Crane was in September 1994, when an Air-Crane dropped into a remote lake in the Cabinet Mountains in northwest Montana. The helicopter’s three-man crew escaped without injury.



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