Pilots Die Battling Utah Wildfire
Plane crashes at fire’s edge
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Two air tanker pilots died in a plane crash on Sunday while battling a 5,000-acre wildfire that ignited Friday in western Utah. Todd Neal Tompkins and Ronnie Edwin Chambless of Boise, Idaho, were flying retardant over the edge of the fire when a helicopter crew saw them go down into the sagebrush. Crews on the ground held back the fire while deputies hiked to the crash site to confirm the pilots’ deaths. The fire later engulfed the wreckage after hotshot crews were pulled off the lines following the crash. “To have them working on the fire lines after this is more than we would like to ask firefighters,” said Don Smurthwaite, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
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