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Pilot dies after chopper crashes near Slave Lake fires

May 24, 2011  By CTV

May 24, 2011, Slave Lake, Alta. - A helicopter pilot fighting fires in northern Alberta died on Friday after his chopper went down in the waters of Lesser Slave Lake, not far from where crews have been battling massive wildfires that have forced thousands from their homes.

The male pilot has not been identified, but officials say that he was declared dead at the scene of the crash.

"This is a very tragic event and it does have an impact," said Len MacCharles, the incident commander.

"It has an impact on everybody who's involved in putting this community back together. This is a resilient community and they continue to put forth the effort that is needed."

The chopper was privately contracted by the Alberta government. According to preliminary reports, the helicopter is operated by Campbell Helicopters Limited in Abbotsford, B.C.


Crews from out-of-province have been taking part in the massive fire fighting campaign, and an official with the Transportation Safety Board confirmed that the Bell 212 helicopter was fighting fires in the region.

Just after the crash at 3:30 p.m. local time, an air ambulance was dispatched to the scene, which is near Canyon Creek, about 20 kilometres west of the town of Slave Lake.

The chopper crashed about 30 metres offshore in about two metres of water, and attempts to get to the pilot resulted in some emergency crew members being treated for hypothermia.

Officials with the Alberta's Sustainable Resources, which is in charge of the firefighting effort, said that a full internal review will be undertaken, and that the TSB would be leading the investigation. The cause of the crash isn't known yet.

"This is a sad loss for everyone in Alberta," Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight said.

"What a terrible way to be reminded of the courage our wildfire fighters display by being on the front lines for all of us."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the town to view the remains of the fire on Friday afternoon.


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