According to local news sources, one body has been recovered with three others aboard the aircraft unaccounted for in a helicopter crash involving a UH-60A Black Hawk firefighting helicopter that occurred at approximately 4 pm May 25th, 2021 in Leesburg, Florida.
Leesburg Fire Rescue and the FAA stated it is believed that four people were on board the aircraft at the time of the crash that occurred on the south end of Runway 31 at Leesburg Airport. Witnesses reported that the aircraft appeared to have a mid-air separation of the tail in flight from the aircraft. The main body of the aircraft then spiraled to the ground in a marsh area, causing a large fuel-fed post-crash fire that was still burning at 8 pm EST. The U.S Forest Service was called in to dig a fire line around the main body of the aircraft to prevent the post-crash fire from spreading into nearby wetlands.
Shortly after the crash, local news obtained from Leesburg Police Captain Joe Iozzi, who said officers were able to talk to witnesses at the scene.
“It’s apparent that the helicopter went into a tailspin and at some point, the tail separated from the main body,” Iozzi said.
“The tail actually went onto the airport runway area while the main body of the helicopter went into the wooded swampy area which is making it difficult for rescue crews to get back to,” Iozzi continued.
As of the last report at 5:30 am, none of the other victim’s bodies had been recovered, but it is believed that three others involved in a firefighting training exercise at the time of the crash also perished in the accident. The NTSB is on site beginning their investigation.
The FAA released a statement on the crash that said in part:
“A Sikorsky UH-60 firefighting helicopter crashed into a marsh near Leesburg Airport in Leesburg, Fla., during a training exercise around 4 p.m. local time today. Four people were aboard. The FAA and (National Transportation Safety Board) will investigate. The FAA will release the aircraft tail number once investigators verify it at the scene. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and all updates.”
The aircraft involved is believed to belong to Firehawk Helicopters, based at Leesburg Airport. Firehawk has operated 9 Sikorsky UH-60A helicopters and along two other companies in the area, pioneered the use of the former military UH-60A model helicopter as an aerial firefighting platform that is now used by over a dozen private companies and several municipalities in many different variants as a firefighting helicopter utilizing Bambi Buckets, belly tank systems, and internal tank systems to fight fires in the United States and around the world.
Firehawk Helicopters along with other U.S firefighting companies recently deployed several Blackhawk helicopters to Australia to fight fires during their firefighting season that runs from October to March.