PAYSON, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) – A pilot is dead after a helicopter crashed in the Tonto National Forest near where the Polles Fire is burning outside of Payson.
According to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bell UH-1H helicopter was part of firefighter operations over the Polles Fire when it went down "under unknown circumstances" about 10 miles west of Payson.
An FAA spokesman said the pilot was the only one aboard. The Pine-Strawberry Fire Department said the pilot died as a result of the crash.
On Tuesday night, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office identified the pilot as 37-year-old Bryan Boatman. He was working for Airwest Helicopters, located in Glendale.
A procession was seen transporting the body of a helicopter pilot who died while fighting the Polles Fire near Payson. (Video credit: Payson Roundup)
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.
The Polles Fire is burning about 11 miles west of Payson in the Mazatzal Wilderness on top of the Polles Mesa. According to fire managers, the area is only accessible by helicopter. Fire crews have been sleeping in the wilderness. Food, drinking water, and supplies are flown in by helicopter every day.
Lighting sparked the Polles Fire on Friday, July 3. It has burned nearly 600 acres.