California pilot killed in firefighting helicopter crash had wife, 2 daughterscloseVideo
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The California helicopter pilot who died in a crash while fighting wildfires in Fresno County Wednesday has been identified as a 52-year-old father of two.
Michael John Fournier, of Rancho Cucamonga, worked for Guardian Helicopters, an aviation company contracted by the state’s firefighting agency, according to authorities.
He was the only person aboard the Bell UH-1H helicopter when it crashed about 9 miles south of Caolinga while battling the Hills Fire – one of hundreds of wildfires burning across the Golden State. The crash sparked a new fire, which then merged with the Hills Fire.
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A search-and-rescue team from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spent much of the day crossing rugged terrain to reach the crash site and recover Fournier’s body, authorities said. They transferred him to the county coroner’s office late Wednesday night.
The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation into the crash, along with state and county authorities.
Fournier leaves behind a wife, LeAnne, and two daughters, Mikena, 20 and Riley, 16.
"It’s not going to be the same without him," Riley told NBC Los Angeles. "He changed so many people’s lives for the best and people are going to miss him so much."
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Fournier was an experienced pilot who previously flew for a San Diego television station and a California power company, according to the outlet. He also spent time coaching high school football.
LeAnne Fournier set up a GoFundMe following her husband’s death Wednesday. It had already raised more than $36,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
"He was an amazing, amazing man, and I'm so proud to be his wife," she told the local station.
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The Hills Fire had burned 1,500 acres and was 35 percent contained as of noon Thursday, authorities said. It is active around Highway 33 and Sutter Avenue, south of Coalinga.