Forest Service firefighter from Yuba City killed in Texas helicopter crash
Special to The Union
A Yuba City man who worked as a firefighter in Tahoe National Forest was killed in a helicopter crash in Texas on Wednesday.
Daniel Laird, 41, was one of three aboard the helicopter, conducting a controlled burn in Sam Houston National Forest, about an hour north of Houston, when it crashed, according to the U.S. Forest Service. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.
“Our hearts and condolences go out to Daniel, his family, friends, and co-workers,” Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said in a press release. “We’re very proud of his service and commitment to the agency and our nation. Tragedies of this nature serve as a reminder of the honorable work and sacrifices made by women and men like Daniel. They daily commit themselves to supporting and protecting communities around the country,” she said.
Laird was a helitack captain and 23-year veteran of the Tahoe National Forest, according to the release. He was on board with a contract pilot and another forest service employee, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Deputy Director of Communication for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service Jon McMillan said Thursday. The contract pilot is still hospitalized and the forest service employee has since been released.
He could not say how the helicopter crashed, but said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident.
“We’re working to ensure the NTSB has all they need to investigate,” McMillan said.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Laird and the two others were aboard a 2009 Eurocopter AS 350 – a single-engine, light utility helicopter frequently used in firefighting and in the military. The Federal Aviation Administration responded to the scene Wednesday.
The NTSB could not be reached for comment in time for publication Thursday.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Rachel Rosenbaum is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.
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