CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — An Erickson Air-Crane helicopter crashed near a dam and sank under water while fighting a wildfire in Victoria, Australia — Erickson, Inc. and Kestrel Aviation confirmed on Monday.
In spite of the crash, the pilot and crew members made it out alright, an Erickson spokesman said.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), the S-64 Aircrane helicopter — nicknamed "Christine" — was aiding with firefighting efforts on the Thomson Catchment Complex fires near Jericho in the state of Victoria, east of the Australian capital in Melbourne.
"The aircraft was actively engaged in fighting the Thomson Complex Catchment bush fire in a challenging and dynamic fire environment," Erickson said in a statement.
For an unknown reason, the helicopter crashed near a dam and began to sink into the water. The three members of Christine's crew were able to swim from the wreckage to the edge of the dam.
All of Christine's crew were recovered, then treated and released from a local hospital soon after the incident.
Erickson said that preliminary data indicates that all aircraft and flight systems were operating normally at the time of the crash. Kestrel and Erickson said that they are cooperating fully with investigative authorities.
ABC reports that all six of Australia's Aircranes have been grounded until the cause of the crash has been determined by investigators. Erickson offered that they will be implementing a "rolling, global safety stand-down" to review and reinforce the importance of crew safety.
"Kestrel and Erickson will continue to support active fire suppression efforts with our fleet in coordination with the Australian authorities," said Erickson.
Just last week an Erickson-owned helicopter — this one a Bell 206 — crashed near Ashland. The pilot did not survive the crash.
Erickson, Inc. has its headquarters in Portland, but the company's main facility is located in Central Point. Its Aircrane aircraft have become an integral part of wildland firefighting operations across the world.
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