Tallahassee, Fla. – A firefighting helicopter crashed during a training exercise in Leesburg with four people on board. One fatality has been confirmed and three individuals remain unaccounted for. The Federal Aviation Administration will begin investigating the incident and officials have not immediately released additional information.
At the direction of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, flags will be lowered to half-staff at all Florida Forest Service facilities, offices, forestry centers, and state forests in memory of the fallen individuals. Officials with the Florida Forest Service, the state’s lead wildland firefighting agency and a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, released the following statements.
“We are devastated to hear of yesterday’s firefighting helicopter crash in Leesburg,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “On behalf of the State of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Forest Service, we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones and colleagues affected by this immeasurable loss. These brave souls training to protect our communities will not be forgotten.”
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy within our wildland firefighting family,” said Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury. “These firefighters put themselves on the line to serve and protect the lives of others. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and the entire community.”
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services