(UPDATE at 3:11 PM)

Lewis and Clark Country Sheriff and Coroner Leo Dutton said on Thursday that he has released the identity of the female pilot who was killed in a plane crash while fighting the Horse Gulch Fire burning near Hauser Lake.

Dutton said the pilot of the Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss has been identified as 45-year-old Juliana Turchetti. She was killed when her firefighting aircraft crashed into a cliff on a mountainside and sank in Hauser Lake.

Pilot Identified in Wednesday's Firefighting Plane Crash

Dutton said Ms. Turchetti was employed by Dauntless Air, reportedly out of Idaho, although a call to the company brought a ‘no comment at this time’ message.

She was a native of Brazil and was working in the United States on a visa.

Dutton said Ms. Turchetti left behind a 17-year-old son, along with many family members in her home country of Brazil.

The Pilot was Identified as Juliana Turchetti of Brazil

Dutton said he and the Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office “offer our sincere condolences to her family, her service partners, and to the aviation community.”

In a previous report, Dutton told me that as a token of respect and honor for the pilot, first responders on Wednesday afternoon provided a police escort from the fire scene to the morgue in Lewis and Clark County.

The Horse Gulch Fire is now over 2,000 Acres with Zero Containment

According to the Inciweb website, The Horse Gulch Fire is actively burning and has covered over 2,000 acres. As of 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, the fire was zero percent contained.

Sheriff Dutton’s office has ordered evacuations due to the blaze. The Red Cross has opened a temporary evacuation center at Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church, 3580 N. Benton St. in Helena, for those impacted by the Horse Gulch Fire.

(First Report at 8:14 AM)

Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Wednesday afternoon at about 12:15, an aircraft identified as an Air Tractor AT-802 crashed into a cliff at the Hauser Reservoir to fight the Horse Gulch Fire.

I spoke with Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton after the female pilot’s body was recovered by Search and Rescue crews.

A Female Pilot was Killed in a Plane Crash while Fighting a Wildfire

“Our dispatch received a phone call from an individual on lower Hauser Lake that said a plane had crashed, and it was a firefighting plane that was called an 802 Fire Boss that looked like an aerial tanker that had veered off and crashed into a cliff,” began Sheriff Dutton.

He said the pilot did not survive the crash.

“Unfortunately, the pilot was deceased,” he said. “She's a 45-year-old female pilot who works for a company out of Idaho, and we're in the process of notifying all the family who do not live in this country,” he said. “They were loading water at the time and the plane was taking off. I don't know what happened, but hopefully, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) will be able to find out. The plane is still submerged.”

The Fatal Crash is Under Investigation by the NTSB

Dutton expanded on the continuing investigation into the fatal plane crash.

“The investigation will be conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has been helping us as well,” he said. “This is a tragedy. I'm a pilot myself, and I know the qualifications you have to go through in the training to be able to do this, and this company is working very hard to talk to the family and help them understand what happened.”


First Responders Provided a Police Escort for the Fallen Pilot

Sheriff Dutton said at that moment that he and fellow first responders were just preparing a police escort for the pilot's body.

“Right now, at this very moment, (at about 6:30 p.m.) because of the heroic efforts, this fire (The Horse Gulch Fire) is just getting huge and we're doing more evacuations, but because of what she had done for us, we're giving a police escort from where we recovered her from the water into our morgue. That's happening right now.”

According to the website Inciweb,The Horse Gulch Fire was reported the afternoon of July 9 and as of the afternoon of July 10 was approximately 450 acres. The fire is located about 5 miles south of York, and 2 miles north of Canyon Ferry. Fire behavior is active and is in dense timber with heavy dead and down fuels. A Type III team has been ordered and plans to take command tomorrow (Thursday, July 11).

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