When a water-scooping CL-215 air tanker crashed in Greece on June 26, the pilots of two Aircrane helicopters who were working a fire diverted to the site, saw that the aircraft was on fire, and each helicopter dropped three loads of water on the flames. This helped make it possible for one of the CL-215 pilots to extract the other pilot who had a back injury.
Below is an excerpt from an article at Skies Magazine.
[Erickson Aircrane pilots Mike Strasser and Jeff Shelton] and another Aircrane, operated by Jeff Brenhaug and Don McLeod, were fighting a fire about eight miles northwest of Athens, Greece, on June 26, when a Hellenic Air Force Canadair CL-215 waterbomber—known as a “duck”—crashed on a wooded hillside. Thick black smoke was rising into the air as the two Aircranes arrived above the wreckage.
“It was pretty obvious that it had gone down and it was on fire,” Strasser told Skies. “We decided to switch to light coverage and began dropping water on the plane. As we came in behind the other Crane for our first drop, I was looking out the bubble window and I saw two people on the right side of the aircraft. It looked like one of them was dragging the other out.”
“Just seeing somebody outside [the aircraft] was a good feeling,” said Strasser. “It crashed close to a road, and soon I saw firefighters on the ground rescuing them. We finished up there and headed back to fight the fire.”
But the story didn’t end there for the Aircrane crews. The next day they received a special visitor. Taxiarchis Papamarkos, one of the CL-215 pilots, sought them out to say his thanks.
“He told us the other guy had a back injury and couldn’t walk,” recounted Strasser. “He was trying to help him, but it was getting very hot and his flight suit was singed. He thought he would be dead in 10 seconds. He expected the plane to blow up, so he started counting backwards from 10. But when he got to four, he felt cool rain falling on him. It helped him to pull his friend out.”
The other CL-215 pilot is in the hospital but is expected to recover.