Eight feared dead in crash Sikorsky S-61 helicopter went down in

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Eight feared dead in crash Sikorsky S-61 helicopter went down in Powered By Docstoc   8/18/08 4:41 PM

  Eight feared dead in crash
  Sikorsky S-61 helicopter went down in Trinity Alps Wilderness
  near Buckhorn fire; pilot and three firefighters survived
  By Paul Fattig
  Mail Tribune
  August 07, 2008 6:00 AM

  Seven firefighters hired by a Southern Oregon contracting company and a co-pilot are presumed dead
  after a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter owned by Carson Helicopters Inc. of Grants Pass crashed Tuesday
  evening in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

  The firefighters were employed by Grayback Forestry Inc. of Central Point, according to a company

  Four others aboard the aircraft, including the pilot, were injured when the helicopter was destroyed
  by fire after crashing "under unknown circumstances," said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal
  Aviation Administration.

  The three injured firefighters, all from Medford, and the unidentified pilot have been hospitalized in

  The crash occurred at about 7:45 p.m. as the aircraft was lifting off near the roughly 15,850-acre
  Buckhorn fire burning in the Trinity Alps Wilderness some 35 miles northwest of Redding, Calif.

  The names of the seven missing Grayback firefighters and two flight crew members involved were
  not available Wednesday night.

  Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA released statements indicating the eight
  people unaccounted for were presumed dead. The NTSB dispatched a team of investigators
  Wednesday to determine the cause of the crash. Two representatives from the Office of
  Transportation Disaster Assistance are on that team.

  The pilot is in serious condition at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. The pilot's family is
  in the medical center with him, according to Bob Madden, Carson's director of corporate affairs. The
  name of the pilot, who works for Carson, has not yet been released.

  Grayback firefighters Michael Brown, 20, and Jonathan Frohreich, 18, both of Medford, were also
  being treated at the medical center. Brown was upgraded to fair condition late Wednesday while
  Frohreich remained in critical condition, according to the hospital and fire officials.

  Another Grayback employee, Rick Schroeder, 42, also of Medford, was in serious but stable
  condition at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, officials said.

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  "We know we had ten firefighters on board and that seven are missing," said Grayback spokeswoman
  Leslie Habetler. "It's been pretty hard."

  Grayback owner Mike Wheelock told The Associated Press that he was in Sacramento handling
  notification of employees' families. He did not confirm any deaths, however.

  In Medford, Leora Frohreich, Jonathan Frohreich's grandmother, said the family is relieved the young
  man survived. This was his first season as a firefighter, she said. Her grandson, who attended South
  Medford High School, and the other firefighters were being flown out for some rest when the
  helicopter crashed, she said.

  "We're so very, very thankful he's alive," she said, adding that his parents, Rick and Karen Frohreich
  of Medford, as well as his girlfriend, are in Sacramento to be with him. "You can't be in a crash like
  that and not be hurt.

  "He seems to be coming along all right," she said. "The burns will heal. He also has a back injury but
  he's moving his legs. He's going to be all right. We're just so sorry for those young people who lost
  their lives."

  Both the FAA and the NTSB reported there were 13 on board, including the crew. No one could
  account for the discrepancy between the number of passengers reported by Grayback and the

  Madden confirmed that the co-pilot from Carson was among those missing.

  Until Tuesday's crash, the firm had an unblemished record when it came to fighting fire from the air,
  he said.

  "This is the first time we've had a fatal crash while fighting fire and we've been in business for 50
  years," he said. "We had 12 aircraft fighting fires on the West Coast when this happened. Firefighting
  for us is a very typical experience.

  "This is the first time we've had an accident like this."

  The helicopter was shuttling fire crews when it crashed about 100 feet from a landing zone shortly
  after taking off, said Ron Sanow, a Shasta-Trinity forest spokesman.

  The crash has been devastating to everyone in the firefighting community, he said.

  "I just took a call from a parent who was trying to figure out if one of the missing might be their
  son," he said. "That's difficult...."

  "I ask the public to join me in our thoughts and prayers for the fire personnel, family and friends,"
  forest supervisor Sharon Heywood said in a prepared statement.

  "We are praying for the swift recovery of all the victims, and our hearts go out to their loved ones,"
  added California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  The employees of both the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land

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  Management's Medford District, many of whom are experienced firefighters, also expressed deep
  sympathy for the crash victims and their families, said forest spokeswoman Patty Burel.

  The Buckhorn fire, now 87 percent contained by a fire line, was sparked by a lightning storm in mid-
  July. There are no homes in the wilderness area where the terrain was described by Sanow as "steep,
  remote and rugged."

  Recovery efforts have been complicated by the crash site's remote location, said U.S. Forest Service
  spokeswoman Jennifer Rabuck.

  Firefighters waiting to be picked up at the landing site helped rescue the four injured people, she said.
  Following the crash, about three dozen firefighters were forced to spend the night on the mountain
  after darkness made it impossible for other helicopters to land, she said.

  Trinity County Sheriff Lorrac Craig said Wednesday that two of his deputies were at the crash site,
  but they can't get to the helicopter because it was still burning.

  There are no hiking trails to the remote site, he said, adding that anyone going to it must be flown in.

  "You can reach it by ground, but it may take a day," he said.

  Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

  Firefighter fatalities
  The helicopter crash that is believed to have killed eight firefighters Tuesday would rank among the
  deadliest incidents involving firefighters in the United States in the past 30 years.

  Here are some other notable events involving firefighter deaths:

           Sept. 11, 2001: 340 firefighters killed in World Trade Center attack.
           July 6, 1994: 14 firefighters overcome by wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colo.
           July 23, 1984: 10 firefighters killed fighting oil refinery blaze in Romeoville, Ill.
           June 18, 2007: Nine firefighters die when the roof of a burning furniture warehouse collapses
           in Charleston, S.C.
           Aug. 24, 2003: Eight Oregon firefighters returning from a fire in Idaho die when their van
           collides with a truck outside Vale, Ore.

  — Source: National Fire

  Protection Association

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