Copter Crash In Chile Forest Fire Region Kills 13

Copter Crash In Chile Forest Fire Region Kills 13

17 February 2009

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Chile — Thirteen people, including a dozen firefighters, were killed on Sunday when their helicopter crashed in a region of south-central Chile that is grappling with a rash of forest fires, regional authorities said.

The helicopter, which belongs to forestry company Celco, a unit of conglomerate Copec, crashed in the Maule region around 185 miles (300 kilometres) south of the capital, Santiago.

“They are 12 firefighters and the pilot,” Angelica Saez, governor of the province of Cauquenes, told local television, revising the death toll down from the 14 she reported earlier. “They belong to the company Celco Constitucion.”

She said the firefighters were aged 18 to 30.

“They are youths who work during the season to try and pull together money to study. These are difficult times,” she added.

A fireman who went to the scene said he and his team found two corpses around 50 yards away from the wreckage. Parts of the helicopter were still burning.

Chile’s National Forestry Corp. (CONAF) said the ill-fated team had been heading to put out a fire at a eucalyptus plantation when the helicopter crashed.

A regional national emergency official said there was a dense mist in the area and a light rain at the time of the crash.

Chile has been dealing with a series of forest fires mainly in southern wooded areas where fires are sparked each summer amid dry, hot conditions.

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