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Helicopter Crashes in Calif. Forest

February 18, 1998

JOHNSONDALE, Calif. (AP) _ A military-type helicopter crashed Wednesday near the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Deputies were searching for survivors, Lt. Mike Gutsch added. ``At this point, the search is continuing.″ he added at mid-afternoon.

The helicopter was fully engulfed in flames when California forestry, sheriff’s deputies and U.S. forest personnel arrived after the crash was reported at 12:28 p.m. in Kern River Canyon, said Gutsch and district forest ranger Judy Schutza. It was unknown how many people were in the aircraft.

Officials at China Lake Naval Weapons Center were checking to see if the helicopter was one of theirs, spokeswoman Joy Adams said.

``We have no idea what caused the crash,″ Schutza said. Weather was clear and there was no wind, she added.

Although the area is rocky and the canyon is steep, there is a paved road that runs along the river, making it relatively easy for emergency crews to arrive quickly, Schutza said. But she was unsure on which side of the river the helicopter crashed in the rugged southern Sierra 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Gutsch said the crash reportedly was between Roads End and Johnsondale.

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