Helicopter crash in China May 10, 2021. Still image from video.
It was attempting to refill its water bucket at a lake

Four were killed Monday May 10 after a helicopter crashed in Erhai Lake in Dali, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. The Z-8X helicopter operated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force had been assisting firefighters on the ground by dropping water with an external bucket. It crashed while attempting to refill at the lake.

Initially it was reported that the two pilots were killed and there were two missing crewmembers. After a search that involved 16 ships and more than 490 rescuers the crewmembers were found deceased about 16 hours later, very early Tuesday morning local time.

Videos show the aircraft start to slowly rotate or spin while it was a couple of hundred feet above the lake before the bucket was lowered into the water. The spin increased in speed and the helicopter descended, then there is an explosion that sends debris flying before the helicopter hits the water.

Our sincere condolences go out to the crew's family, friends, and coworkers.

The Z-8 helicopter is a Chinese version of the French Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon helicopter.

The China Daily, owned by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party, reported that a huge number of people were assigned to the 118-acre wildfire the helicopter was working on:

"A total of 2,532 people were mobilized to extinguish the fire which scorched some 48 hectares of land, according to the forest and grassland fire prevention and control headquarters in Dali. No casualties as a result of the fire have been reported."

A typical fire that size would have a perimeter of about 9,400 feet. If the 2,532 personnel on the fire were all standing on the perimeter they would be stationed every 3 feet, literally shoulder to shoulder.