Thursday, June 4, 2020

A helicopter under contract to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on Tuesday struck power lines and crashed near Fairfield, California. Three occupants of the helicopter died and three firefighters were injured when their appliance rolled responding to an ensuing wildfire.

The Bell 206 came down near Interstate 80 around 13:30 local time, during works to high-voltage power cables in the area. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said several acres of land burned before the flames were extinguished. CalFire requested power line de-energisation during the emergency which cut electric supply to around 38,000 people. CalFire indicated the injuries were minor.

The three deceased were reportedly PG&E contract employees. The company said power was restored by 20:21 following delays caused by warm weather at the time. Investigations have been launched by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, with the latter yesterday confirming on Twitter they were “not traveling to the crash scene at this time.” Wikinews approached the NTSB regarding their decision not to visit the site, but as of today the board’s press office did not respond.

PG&E, currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, is currently upgrading its infrastructure to reduce wildfire risks, though as of reports on Tuesday the company had not confirmed what work the helicopter was undertaking. In a letter to The Mercury News, published on Monday, PG&E President and CEO Andy Vesey said the firm was working to install “100 miles of stronger poles and covered power lines [and manage] vegetation along 890 miles of our system to reduce wildfire risk.” Vesey also indicated equipment is being added to lines to aid in shutdowns.

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