Neptune Aviation press release

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Neptune Aviation, the operator of Tanker 09 that crashed on Monday, issued this press release on Wednesday. Our condolences go out to the families and co-workers.


Press Release Neptune Aviation Services, Inc.


It is with profound sorrow that we report the loss of three of our Neptune team members and most trusted employees in the tragic crash of Tanker 09 in Stead, Nevada on Monday September 1, 2008. These brave men gave their lives fighting wildfire. They left us doing what they loved to do.

Our employees mean everything to us. Right now, we are focused on taking care of their families. They are all in our hearts and prayers.

In loving memory we express our gratitude to these fine men:

Gene Wahlstrom was the Captain of T09 and Chief Pilot for Neptune Aviation. He began his professional flying career as a crop duster and combined that job with drag racing and working as a lineman for the power company. He began his history in airtankers with Black Hills Aviation out of Alamogordo, New Mexico and has over 35 years in the aviation industry. In the early 80’s, he decided to join the US Forest Service as a Lead Plane Pilot and worked his way into a supervisory position. He spent many years and developed many friendships with individuals at the Forest Service. However, the airtanker industry was calling Gene’s name and he answered by joining the Neptune team in 1999. Gene was an excellent leader and mentor for many people at Neptune. One of Gene’s greatest qualities was his loyalty to his friends, family and Neptune Aviation. He was a great communicator and was an excellent Chief Pilot, respected by all who knew him. Gene is greatly loved and will be remembered as a kind, genuine, accomplished and dedicated member of our Neptune family.

Greg Gonsioroski, “Gonzo”, was the First Officer of T09 and has been with Neptune for fifteen years. Greg began his career at Neptune as an A&P mechanic. He continued on to get his pilot’s license. He flew support aircraft during the summer months and was a mechanic in the shop during the off-season. He was able to gather flight hours and shortly thereafter began training as a First Officer for Neptune. Greg was dedicated to becoming an airtanker Captain and was well on his way. He received his type rating for the P2V in the spring of 2006. Greg was a superior mechanic as well as a dedicated and knowledgeable First Officer. He was a family man with great integrity. He loved his wife and three children and always offered to share family moments with coworkers and friends. Greg made a lasting impression on his friends at Neptune as a kind, fun loving, caring and competent man.

Zachary Vander Griend was one of the newest members of Neptune’s team and was welcomed warmly into the fold. He came to us as an eager, driven, and energetic A&P mechanic. He was as happy to be with Neptune as we were to have him. Zachary was also a pilot and dreamed of flying from the early age of two. He got his pilot’s license when he was seventeen and spent much of his time in volunteer programs such as the Young Eagles. He made a great impression on everyone he came in contact with. Zachary was eager to do his job and a joy to be around.

On behalf of all of us at Neptune, we want to express our deepest gratitude and love for the crew of T09 and their families. Gene, Greg and Zach will live forever in the memories of everyone at Neptune Aviation.

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