Former Carson employees responsible for fatal Iron 44 Fire helicopter crash were motivated by greed, prosecutors say

Carson helicopter
Nine firefighters and pilots were killed in the 2008 crash of a Carson Helicopters S-61N in northern California. Two former employees of the company have pleaded guilty to charges related to the crash of the overloaded helicopters that impacted the ground while attempting to take off from a remote helispot.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Mail Tribune that provides details about the sentencing of the two former Carson employees.

The vice president of a defunct Grants Pass helicopter company was motivated by “pure greed” to lie about the carrying capacities of the firms’ helicopters, including an overloaded one that crashed at a Northern California fire in 2008, killing nine people, prosecutors say.

A government sentencing memorandum says Steven Metheny not only falsified documents for Carson Helicopters to gain Forest Service contracts worth up to $51.7 million, he also supplied a similarly falsified helicopter to the Forest Service as a replacement for the one that crashed Aug. 5, 2008, on the Iron 44 fire.

Seven of the nine killed were Southern Oregon firefighters in what was the deadliest crash of its kind in U.S. wildfire-fighting history. The memorandum, which details how Metheny tried to scuttle the investigation into the crash and stole from his own company, sets out the government’s argument for Metheny to be sentenced to more than 15 1/2 years in prison for his guilty plea in the case.

“His fraudulent conduct was the result of pure greed that eventually placed the lives of numerous pilots and firefighters in extreme danger,” according to the memorandum written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield…

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Nina.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

10 thoughts on “Former Carson employees responsible for fatal Iron 44 Fire helicopter crash were motivated by greed, prosecutors say”

  1. needless deaths that should never have happened
    the forest service accepted, without verification, the companies weight/balance and performance charts
    certainly there is some forest service culpability in this
    where were the forest, regional and wo aviation folks?

  2. A lot of trust of one kind or another is built into the system but people sometimes take advantage of it and greed is often the reason. I was managing a helicopter on a fire and the pilot asked me for my fire qualification card when I asked for his. He said, got to double check the system. First time ever I was asked. I was happy to have him examine it and he said after looking at my many qualifications and grayish hair. I’m glad I have you managing my aircraft. I said, like wise, judging his age about mine, I bet we were in the same war so long ago. With a grin and sparkle in his eyes he said, right on. It was a great aircraft to manage.

    The Mr. Metheny who falsified the information deserves a long sentence for his shameful, greedy, fatal action actions who brought so much grief, pain and suffering to so many.

    1. a wise man once said “trust but verify”
      the forest service neglected a very important part of that equation
      and 15 1/2 years is much to short a sentence for mr metheny

  3. 15 and half years is too short a term to serve. But with the plea bargaining that goes on in the system it figures. And how does one put cost to lives lost needlessly for the sake of greed? Not for me to say that’s for sure. Just my opinion.

  4. I remember that day my division supervisor walked up to the line ask me where my crew boss was at told me to get him up to the line asap once he got to us are division supervisor told us that an aircraft went down to the fire next to us and in a few minutes there will announce a work stoppage to have a moment of silence for all those who lost there lives on that aircraft are engine that was assigned to us had to leave since they knew those on that crew very personally even are own crew just met those guys on the previous fire assignment just a few weeks ago and the man responsible only get 15 yrs I think he should get more and have to pay back what he lied and stole

  5. My oldest son was killed in this crash. I could say a lot but will just say our family is devastated and that is putting it mildly. One thing that I long for but have never heard and probably never will is “I am sorry for my part in the cause of your sons death.”

  6. To this date, this incident still pisses off the entire wildland fire community. There is still lots of accountability and healing to go around.

    1. Please know that our family as well as others who lost loved ones in this tragedy are attempting to be a voice for change in any way we can regarding the safety and treatment of wildland firefighters. We have been held at arms length in all things regarding this tragedy (except the NTSB). I know there are cover-ups, manipulation etc. that have taken power from us. All in all we are very disheartened and heartbroken.

  7. Nina,
    It always saddens me to hear about the deaths in the fire fighting community. At the very least the company and Government agencies should be apologizing for the needless death of your son and others who perished needlessly. I hope that everyone involved comes to grips with this and will see to it that you and your family will hear some form of emotion in regards to that.

    1. Thank you. It is interesting to remember all the high ranking USFS, BLM, Carson, politicians etc. that spoke at the public memorial in Medford. All their wonderful words of condolences and if there is anything we can do to help we will – have proved pretty empty the past almost 7 years.

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