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Pilot killed when firefighting plane crashes into Montana reservoir while scooping up water

HELENA, Mont. — The pilot was killed Wednesday afternoon when a single-engine firefighting plane crashed into a Montana reservoir while he was scooping water to extinguish a nearby fire, officials said.

The crash was reported shortly after noon at Hauser Reservoir on the Missouri River northeast of Helena in Lewis and Clark County.

Police and search and rescue teams responded with boats, along with divers from Gallatin County.

Officials later said at a news conference that the pilot of the “scooper” plane, a 45-year-old woman, had died. They did not release a name pending notification of next of kin who do not live in the United States, the Independent registration the newspaper reported.

“This isn’t just coming in, flying in and picking up water. These are dangerous environments,” said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Forest Service will investigate the crash of the Air Tractor AT-802, which was flying on behalf of the Forest Service in Idaho.

The pilot was part of a crew battling the nearby Horse Ridge Fire, a 450-acre (182-hectare) human-caused blaze burning through dense woods in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of the town of York. The fire started Tuesday, and the sheriff’s office ordered some residents to evacuate Wednesday afternoon.

Temperatures in the Helena region have been above 32 degrees Celsius for several days now, and are expected to reach 38 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

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