Plane crashes while fighting California wildfire

Plane crashes while fighting California wildfire

08 October 2014

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 USA — A plane fighting a wildfire has crashed, but there was no immediate word on the condition of the pilot, who was the only person aboard the plane which went down near Yosemite National Park in California, US officials have said.

The plane went down at about 10.30am AEDST within 2 km of the park’s west entrance, Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

Rescue crews were working their way through difficult terrain to reach the plane.

“It’s very rugged” said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“We determined there was a crash, but they’re still trying to work their way through pretty rugged terrain to determine the status of the pilot. Obviously we’re hoping for the best, but the situation is very serious.”

The plane, manufactured in 2001, is an S-2T air tanker, which is flown by a single pilot and has no other crew members.

“All the tourists and residents were being turned away,” Lewis said, when Michael reported that he had just witnessed “a bomber collide into the river canyon, the canyon wall, and watched it explode in flames and reported there was plane debris landing in the highway.”

The canyon wall is above the highway and the Merced River, Lewis said.

“It’s almost vertical canyon walls,” Lewis said, “and the road was cut in 100 years ago right along the river. Anything that falls from the top is going to fall right on the roadway.”

There were no reports of any injuries on the ground as a result of debris.

It was unclear if the pilot was flying to or from the fire or was in the process of dropping retardant.

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