Names released of the four killed in May 25 Blackhawk crash in Florida

firehawk helicopter
File photo of a Sikorsky 70A operated by Firehawk Helicopters working on the Rankin Fire in South Dakota September 13, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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, Florida. Below is their entire statement issued by the company.


In cooperation with the families involved in the devastating tragedy that occurred on May 25, 2021 and took the lives of three of our team members and the life of a team member from Trotter Controls it has been agreed that now is an appropriate time to name and honor the individuals. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers during this difficult time and the company ask’s that you continue to support and respect the families as they grieve through this devastating loss.

Andrew Gray 35 years of age of Inverness, FL originally from Helena, Montana. Andrew had been with the team for 3 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. Andrew 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. Andrew is survived by his wife Brianne and Mother and Father, Sister and two Brothers. The family wishes for donations to be made to in his honor to the gofundme at the following web address: https://gofund.me/cffce598

Caleb Kupersmith 30 years of age of Boise, ID originally from Coquille, Oregon. Caleb had been with the team for 4 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. Caleb had worked 4 fire seasons in the US with the company and 2 seasons in Australia during the 2018/2019 fire season and the terrible fires that ravaged that country during the 2019/2020 season. Caleb had worked from Hawaii to Alaska and all over the US 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. Caleb is survived by his Mother and Father and 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

Robert Ray 37 years of age of Highland, TX 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. Robert is survived by his wife Misty and his 3 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 years of age of Ventura, CA and originally from Nuevo, California. Ryan had been with the team for 5 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. Ryan had worked 5 fire seasons in the US with the company and 2 fire seasons in Australia during 2018/2019 and the unprecedented 2019/2020 Australian fire season. Ryan had worked through out 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. Ryan is survived by his Mother, Father, Brother and Grandmother. The family

(end of statement)


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.

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