First responders and members of the community paid their final respects on Thursday to CAL FIRE Assistant Chief Josh Bischof and Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez, two of three people who died when two helicopters collided while battling a brush fire in Riverside County.

Mourners gathered at the Riverside County Coroner’s Office in Perris and lined the procession route to Evans Brown Mortuary in Menifee where Bischof and Rodriguez were laid to rest.

“Our hearts go out to the families of our fallen heroes,” CAL FIRE shared on social media. “The entire fire service community is here for you during this difficult time. We appreciate our community’s overwhelming support and love as we navigate this heartbreak.”

Helicopter crash victims
Tim Rodriguez (left), Tony Sousa (center) and Josh Bischof (right). (CAL FIRE)

Bischof, 46, Rodriguez, 44, and contract Pilot Tony Sousa, 55, were killed when two firefighting helicopters collided in mid-air while responding to a 20-acre fire in a remote area in Cabazon around 7:30 p.m. Sunday night.

One helicopter was able to land safely without injuries while the second chopper crashed, killing those onboard, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the circumstances surrounding the collision.

“This terrible tragedy is a reminder of the dangers our courageous firefighters face daily while working to keep our communities safe,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Monday morning. “We owe them our deepest respect and gratitude and will always honor their bravery and sacrifices.”

Firefighting helicopters collide
The wreckage of a helicopter rests on a hillside in Cabazon after a mid-air crash between two firefighting helicopters on Aug. 6, 2023. (KTLA)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden also offered condolences:

“Every day, firefighters run toward danger, while everyone else runs the other way, because being a firefighter is not what they do — it’s who they are. This tragedy is yet another example, of their incredible bravery,” the statement read. “Three families of three brave Americans have an empty seat around the dinner table tonight, and our hearts go out to them.”