Three people were hurt when a helicopter carrying personnel fighting the Fairview Fire near Hemet crashed near Banning Municipal Airport just before 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The three crew members — a pilot and two fire personnel — sustained “moderate injuries” and were taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and treatment, fire officials said.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft, a Bell 206 helicopter, crashed in a residential backyard while approaching the airport to land.
“The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates,” the agency said.
The NTSB spokesperson noted that it is “still very early in the investigation,” and more details would likely not be available until Sunday or later.
Ron Taylor, who lives about a half mile from the airport and witnessed the crash, said it wasn’t unusual to see helicopters landing, though this one was different.
“We saw four helicopters come in, because they’ve been coming in for the last three days for that fire that’s going on,” he said. “We saw three of them come in pretty hot and the fourth one came down and something was wrong with it, it seemed like, and then it started falling out of the sky.”
Fire crews on scene were quick to react, though they don’t yet know what may have contributed to the crash.
“Because of the jet fuel that’s inside of it, we’re having the hazmat team take a look at it to see if it’s a hazmat-type incident,” said Jay Smith of Cal Fire. “Once it’s cleared by that, the rest of the investigation will continue.”