ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A helicopter contracted to support firefighting efforts on an Interior Alaska blaze crashed after takeoff, killing the pilot, officials said Monday. The fatality was the first related to Alaska wildfires in 22 years.
The pilot was identified as Douglas Ritchie, 56, of Wasilla, Alaska State Troopers said.
He was the lone occupant in a 1960 Bell 204B “Huey” helicopter that crashed Sunday night after taking off from an airstrip near the community of Anderson, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of Fairbanks, officials said.
Initial reports incorrectly said the crash occurred when the helicopter was landing, said Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska division.
“He was in the process of hauling, sling-loading some material out to a fire,” Johnson said. “We understand that he brought the helicopter up to a hover, and that’s when the accident took place.”
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