The FAA said there were four people on board, and no survivors have been found

By Rachel DeSantis
May 26, 2021 11:49 AM
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Leesburg’s airport crash truck
Credit: Leesburg Fire Department

At least one person was killed after a firefighting helicopter crashed during a training exercise in Florida, authorities said.

A Sikorsky UH-60 aircraft with four people on board crashed around 4 p.m. on Tuesday into a marsh near Leesburg Airport, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration tells PEOPLE in a statement.

Crews from Leesburg Fire Rescue responded to the scene to search for survivors, but said the crash "appears to be a total loss," the department said in a Facebook post.

The post said that one person was confirmed dead, and no survivors had been located.

Leesburg Police Captain Joe Iozzi said that witnesses at the scene reported seeing the helicopter go into a tailspin before the tail separated from the main body, according to CBS affiliate WKMG.

"The tail actually went onto the airport runway area while the main body of the helicopter went into the wooded swampy area, which is making it difficult for rescue crews to get back to," Iozzi told the outlet.

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He also noted that the aircraft was a Black Hawk helicopter owned by a private company called Firehawk, whose services "include firefighting, building power lines, testing military hardware, lifting equipment onto tall buildings and filmmaking," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Leesburg Fire Rescue said the U.S. Forest Service was on the scene to plow a line around the incident in order to prevent vegetation fires.

The FAA spokeswoman said the agency will investigate, as will the National Transportation Safety Board.

Florida Forest Service – Withlacoochee Forestry Center paid tribute to those on board the aircraft on Twitter.

"Firefighting Helicopter and it's crew known to the Florida Forest Service as the Firehawk," the tweet read. "We greatly appreciate their service and the [peace] of mind they gave our firefighters when they arrived on scene. RIP."