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Helicopter pilot killed in crash during firefighting operation in northern Alberta

A helicopter pilot who was helping fight fires in northern Alberta was killed in a crash on Wednesday.

The Bell 205A craft "collided with terrain during firefighting operations" at 6:13 p.m. in a remote location near Haig Lake, the Transportation Safety Board told CTV News Edmonton.

The agency said one person was on board, but did not initially confirm the death. 

RCMP confirmed to CTV News Edmonton a 41-year-old man from Whitecourt, Alta., died from injuries he sustained in the crash, despite life-saving efforts by forestry workers who arrived at the site first.

Multiple sources identified him as Ryan Gould. 

"On behalf of Mayor Pickard, Town Council and the community, our sincere condolences go to his family and friends during this tragic time," a Town of Whitecourt spokesperson said in a written statement. 

"On behalf of all Albertans I want to offer our condolences to the family, friends, and all those who knew them," Premier Danielle Smith said on social media.

"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank the brave men and women who are working every day to keep our province safe on the front lines. This tragic loss is a reminder of how they put their lives on the line to keep us all safe."

Her forestry and parks minister, Todd Loewen, added, "To see a life cut short in these circumstances is incredibly heartbreaking and Alberta’s government is incredibly thankful for those who continue to protect our communities from these devastating fires. We will continue to do all we can to protect and support the wildfire response teams.”

Alberta Wildfire tweeted it was mourning the loss of one of its members.

"Our hearts go out to the pilot’s friends, family and colleagues. We know there are dangers in fighting wildfire, but it does not make a loss like this any less difficult."

TSB investigators arrived at the scene on Thursday, according to a spokesperson.

The helicopter was operated by Valhalla Helicopters, based in West Kelowna, B.C., according to the TSB. CTV News Edmonton reached out to the company for comment. 

As of Thursday morning, there were 117 active wildfires in Alberta, 17 of which were considered out of control.

The pilot is the third person to die while fighting wildfires in Canada this year. 

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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