LEESBURG, Fla. — The four crew members on board a firefighting helicopter when it crashed into a marsh near the Leesburg airport during a training exercise on Tuesday afternoon have been confirmed dead, Leesburg police said.
Leesburg Fire Rescue confirmed late Tuesday one of the four had died. The other three were confirmed dead by Leesburg police Wednesday afternoon.
In the minutes before the crash, recordings of air traffic communications captured chatter discussing the crash, with one pilot asking about smoke near the airport.
Tuesday night, Leesburg Fire Rescue reported that the crash appeared to be “a total loss” and that no survivors had been located.
The agency said U.S. Forestry crews worked to plow a line around the scene to prevent vegetation fires.
According to the FAA, the helicopter was a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk. However, Leesburg Police Captain Joseph Iozzi confirmed Tuesday none of the four people on board were military service members.
Leesburg police said the involved aircraft belonged to Brainerd Helicopters Inc./Firehawk Helicopters, located within Leesburg International Airport.
The FAA’s initial report shows the helicopter lost control of the bucket it uses to scoop water and dump it on wildfires.
The NTSB is looking for the cause. As part of their the investigators said they’re trying to assemble as many pieces of the helicopter as they can, move them to a secure location and analyze them to see if that can help them determine what happened.
The Medical Examiner’s Office said it still hasn’t confirmed the identities of the four victims and is not ready to release their names.
Iozzi said his department got a call just before 6 p.m. about a downed aircraft near the airport. Leesburg fire crews responded along with them and reported seeing smoke near the site.
Iozzi said witnesses reported seeing the helicopter go into a “tailspin” and, at some point, the tail separated from the main body.
WATCH BELOW: Skywitness 9 flew over the crash site near Leesburg International Airport Wednesday morning
According to Iozzi, the tail landed near the runway, but it was the fuselage that landed in the marsh, making it difficult for rescue crews to access it.
Iozzi said they called in state fire crews to help cut a path to the crash site and that the search and rescue effort.
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