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Incident Name:
Date: 6/4/2000
Personnel: George A. "Bo" Burton
Age: 48
Agency/Organization: United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service helicopter under contract with Florida Division of Forestry
Position: aerial firefighter / helicopter pilot

Summary: Helicopter pilot/Firefighter Bo Burton had been fighting a wildfire near Fort Myers Florida for about 1 1/2 hours, performing reconnaissance, making water drops, and filling his external bucket from a local lake. Witnesses observed the helicopter in level flight headed back to the lake after a water drop. The helicopter was reported to suddenly bank deeply with its nose down. After a few seconds, the helicopter crashed in a cow pasture, killing Bo Burton.


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10 mi S of Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers FL

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 6/4/2000
    • 1 killed: George A "Bo" Burton
    • Operator: United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
    • Type: Bell UH-1H
    • Location: Fort Myers FL
    • FAA Registration # N127FC
    • NTSB # MIA00GA184
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report (106 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) Probable Cause brief

    The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

    the pilot's failure to maintain control of the helicopter for undetermined reasons. Factors in this accident were self-induced pressure and fatigue due to lack of sleep and rest.
  • NTSB: Full Narrative (html)
  • For more information consult the NTSB online lookup utility. Use NTSB Identification: MIA00GA184

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Pilot Killed in Florida Firefighting Copter Crash

    6/5/2000 | Online article (no longer online)

    FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- A government helicopter fighting wildfires in southwest Florida crashed Sunday morning, killing the pilot. The Bell UH-1 Huey was equipped to carry 200 gallons of water, said Liz Compton, a Florida Department of Agriculture spokeswoman.

    "He had dumped the load and was going back to get more water when he crashed,'' Compton said. The helicopter was being flown for the Division of Forestry. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

    The pilot, George A. Burton, 48, had been fighting a fire that reportedly threatened about a dozen homes near Fort Myers. Fire officials could not immediately confirm the extent of the blaze.

    Since the first of the year, 3,300 fires have burned 120,000 acres in Florida. In the West, hot, dry conditions have fueled wildfires in several states. Firefighters in New Mexico had a blaze in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains about 70 percent contained Sunday. The fire had forced the evacuation of hundreds since it began Monday in a pine forest east of Santa Fe.

    Officials said the fire threat in the area remained high despite thunderstorms Thursday and Friday.

    In Arizona, an 11,000-acre fire in the Kaibab National Forest was about 75 percent contained Sunday. Authorities said the steep rugged terrain has made part of the fire impossible to reach, but natural barriers and fire lines now ring the blaze.

    "Nobody expects it to be completely out until we get some rain on it,'' fire information officer Jason Abraham said.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • USFA Memorial Database: George A "Bo" Burton
  • Editorial: Forest ranger deaths sad reminder; Reflections on all Florida wildland firefighter deaths

    5:20 PM, Jun. 24, 2011 | No longer online

    The tragic deaths last week of two state forest rangers fighting a wildfire near Lake City brought home the dangers of these fires, of the risks firefighters face in them and of the responsibility we all have to be cautious with fire during this savage drought.

    Division of Forestry Director Jim Karels praised Josh Burch and Brett Fulton, who were killed Monday while fighting a fire in Hamilton County, and two other firefighters injured while trying to rescue them after they were trapped by the fire while working on heavy equipment.

    Southwest Florida has lost Forestry Division firefighters to wildfires, too.

    In 1985, Marco Miranda died while fighting a fire in Collier County.

    In 2000, helicopter pilot George Burton was killed in a crash after he dumped a load of water on a fire near Estero.

    Current conditions are heavy with fire danger, with the state parched by drought and storms generating lightning but too little rain yet to soak the landscape. The Forestry Division has fought more than 1,500 wildfires since May 1. The fires have burned more than 200,000 acres. Under the circumstances, it is extra important for residents to observe all fire warnings, including the ban on open fires on state lands such as parks. Fourth of July fireworks displays have been abandoned by some governments for financial reasons as well as fear of fires. Individuals should consider the danger as well.

    Meanwhile, we share the grief of the Forestry Division and the lost firefighters' families and friends. And we feel admiration and gratitude toward all the men and women who go in harm's way to protect us.


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Contributors to this article: GA Peach

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