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Update: FAA says Firehawk helicopter was attempting water-drop exercise before Leesburg crash

A fatal helicopter crash occurred May 25 near the Leesburg airport. Photo: Leesburg Fire Rescue via Facebook
A fatal helicopter crash occurred May 25 near the Leesburg airport. Photo: Leesburg Fire Rescue via Facebook

A firefighting helicopter that crashed in Leesburg killing four people on board late Tuesday afternoon was attempting a water-drop exercise at the time. In an initial report, the Federal Aviation Administration says the helicopter lost control of the bucket, causing the rotor section to separate. It crashed into a wooded area and caught on fire. The pilot and three passengers were killed aboard the UH-60 Blackhawk , according to the FAA. The accident occurred near the Leesburg International Airport, in a marshy area near the south end of the runway, Leesburg City Manager Al Minner said.

He said the crash involved Firehawk Helicopters, a private contractor with a big presence at the airport. It provides support in combatting wildfires. An official answering the phone at Firehawk said they have no comment. On Facebook, a regional office of the Florida Forest Service posted condolences. "We greatly appreciate their service and the (peace) of mind they gave our firefighters when the arrived on scene." The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident. This article was updated 9:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.