Kinzo Heath Mihara rescued James R. Charbonneau from burning, Rathdrum, Idaho, June 23, 2020. Charbonneau, 78, was in the cockpit of his two-seat helicopter with a flight instructor shortly after takeoff when the helicopter crash-landed in a field. The helicopter’s twin 20-gallon fuel tanks ruptured and began to leak fuel, and flames broke out on the helicopter spreading to the cockpit under the instructor’s seat. The instructor forced the right door open and rolled out of the helicopter through flames. Mihara, 42, attorney, was driving nearby when he witnessed the helicopter crash and pulled over. Mihara exited his vehicle and ran to the burning helicopter. Another motorist with paramedic training stopped and responded to the scene. Together, Mihara and the flight instructor opened the left door. Mihara, despite blistering heat and flames, then reached into the burning cockpit and grasped Charbonneau’s arm, but lost his grip. Mihara then took off his outer shirt and, using it to cover his hands and forearms, reached farther inside the burning helicopter and grasped Charbonneau’s shirt, pulling him from the cockpit. Mihara and the other motorist then shepherded the flight instructor and Charbonneau away from the wreckage to a point where the other motorist provided first aid. Charbonneau and the flight instructor were taken to a local hospital, then transferred to a major metropolitan hospital where Charbonneau, who suffered extensive burns, died three days later. The flight instructor was hospitalized for more than six weeks for treatment of his burns, and he continued to recover.
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