The families have released the names of the four people killed in the May 25 crash of a helicopter operated by Firehawk Helicopters at Leesburg International Airport.
From the preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board it appears that the cause of the crash was the snorkel hose swinging violently and contacting the main rotor blades while a new snorkel system was being tested at the Leesburg airport.
Those killed have been identified as:
• Andrew Gray, 35 , of Inverness originally from Helena, Montana. He had been with the team for thee years and was a captain in the UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk and had fought fire for 3 years in the US and 1 season in Australia during the devastating fires in the country during the 2019/2020 fire season. He was a veteran of the United States Army and had served as a Black Hawk pilot during the conflict in Afghanistan and was a rated Instructor Pilot. He is survived by his wife Brianne and mother and father, sister and two brothers. The family wishes for donations to be made in his honor to the gofundme at the following web address: https://gofund.me/cffce598
• Caleb Kupersmith 30, of Boise, Idaho originally from Coquille, Ore. He had been with the team for four years and was a Captain in the UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk as well as a qualified and skilled short haul pilot in the Airbus H125 Astar helicopter. He had worked four fire seasons in the U.S. with the company and two seasons in Australia during the 2018/2019 fire season and the terrible fires that ravaged that country during the 2019/2020 season. He had worked from Hawaii to Alaska and all over the U.S. during his career. He was a rated flight instructor and had worked extensively on many fires and incidents both in the Black Hawk and the Astar. He is survived by his mother and father and two brothers and two sisters.
• Robert Ray 37, of Highland, Texas and originally from Tyler, Texas. Robert worked with Trotter Controls as a Senior Controls engineer in support of Trotter’s firefighting equipment that is installed in both airplanes and helicopters all around the globe. He is survived by his wife Misty and his three children and his mother, father and sister. The family wishes for donations to be made to the Wildland Firefighter foundation in his honor.
• Ryan Ritchea 35, of Ventura, Calif. and originally from Nuevo, California. Ryan had been with the team for five years and was a captain in the UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk as well as a qualified and skilled short haul pilot in the Airbus H125 Astar helicopter. He had worked five fire seasons in the U.S. with the company and 2 fire seasons in Australia during 2018/2019 and the unprecedented 2019/2020 Australian fire season. He had worked throughout the United States and Alaska during his career including in the Grand Canyon. He was a rated flight instructor and had worked a broad range of fires and incidents both in the Black Hawk and the Astar. He is survived by his mother, father, brother and grandmother.