Oh man this is bad and VERY unfortunate

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Firefighters' helicopter crashes in California, nine missing

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — A helicopter transporting firefighters in California crashed, leaving four people with serious injuries and nine others missing, the National Transportation and Security Board said Wednesday.

The Sikorsky S-61N was carrying 13 people -- 11 firefighters and two pilots -- and crashed for unknown reasons late Tuesday around 55 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Redding in northern California. The chopper burst into flames on impact.

"Of the 13 people reported to be on-board, four suffered serious injuries; nine are unaccounted for and are presumed to be fatally injured," the NTSB said in a statement.

Les Russell, spokesman for the federal forest firefighters, said one of the survivors, a firefighter, was in critical condition and the three others, a pilot and two firefighters, were in serious condition.

The helicopter had just taken off in an isolated, mountainous region when it crashed at around 7:30 pm local time.

NTSB said a rescue team has been sent to the accident site and an investigation was under way.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the firefighters injured and presumed killed in the accident.

"This is a tragic day for firefighters everywhere and the people of California are profoundly aware of the tremendous sacrifices these heroes and their families make day in and day out to keep us safe.

"We are praying for the swift recovery of the victims and our hearts go out to their loved ones," he told a press conference in the state capital, Sacramento.

The helicopter was chartered by the US Forest Service, whose teams are combating a fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where 350 square kilometers (135 square miles) of land have gone up in flames since June 21.

Thousands of firefighters have been deployed to northern California since late June to combat raging fires. Around 4,500 square kilometers (1,740 square miles) have been destroyed since June 20.

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A good friend of mine who works for Carson Helicopters who owns the helicopter that went down called me last night. He said they are all just sick over this. They know all these guys and are like family. They didn't know much more than what has been said on the news. Carson takes old birds and tears them all the way down and builds a new helicopter out of them. When they go back into sevice the helicopter is as it was when it was first built. They are not old worn out birds any more. So they just can't think of what might have caused the crash. We really appreciate what the fire fighters do for us up here and this really hurts. Our prayers go out to these men and their familys.


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