Air tanker crash in Nevada kills pilot

An air tanker crashed while working on the Hoyt fire in Nevada on Thursday, killing the pilot. Our sincere condolences to the family and co-workers.

From the Missoulian:

A Missoula-area pilot died Thursday when his single-engine air tanker plane crashed while dropping retardant on a forest fire 125 miles northeast of Reno, Nev.

The pilot’s name was Dave Jamsa, and he’d worked at Minuteman Aerial Applications Inc. for four years. The company is a sister corporation of Minuteman Aviation Inc., based at Missoula International Airport. Jamsa had a wife and four children in Missoula.

“He was trying to make his drop when he crashed,” Minuteman director of operations Forrest Gue said Friday morning. “We’re doing everything we can to find out why it happened.”

Jamsa’s plane was one of six SEAT planes working on the Hoyt Fire on Thursday, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesman Mark Struble. The 2,000-acre fire is burning in pinon-juniper trees, sagebrush and grass, and is about 5 percent contained.

The aircraft that crashed was similar to this one. Photo: Minuteman Aerial Application

“SEATs are used quite a bit by BLM in this country,” Struble said on Friday. “They carry a load that seems to work really well with our kind of fires. They can get into much tighter country, and lower, than the multi-engine bombers.”

The crash happened about 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Jamsa was airlifted from the crash site to medical facilities in Locklock, Nev., where he was pronounced dead. No one else was injured in the crash. The aircraft that crashed was similar to this one. Photo: Minuteman Aerial Application

The plane was an Air Tractor AT-802A, one of four Minuteman Aerial Applications operates out of Missoula. It is a modified crop-duster carrying 800 gallons of retardant and a single pilot. Minuteman has used the planes for firefighting since 1999.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending investigators to study the crash. No other Minuteman or affiliated aircraft are affected by the review, according to Minuteman Aerial Applications president Mark Mamuzich.

“We’re mostly initial attack,” Mamuzich said on Friday. “We get out there and try to knock things down before they get too big. They’re a very effective tool. The SEATs have really proved themselves over the years. Unfortunately we had this mishap.”

Plans for a memorial service for Jamsa had not been finalized Friday.

Body of helicopter pilot found

The body of Robert Christopher Woodhead, the 53-year old helicopter pilot who had been missing after his firefighting helicopter crashed into the Fraser River in British Columbia on Friday, has been found. It was located just south of Saddle Rock, near Spuzzum. 

Mr. Woodhead was piloting a Bell 212 and attempting to fill his water bucket when the ship crashed into the river. 

The helicopter company he worked for is planning a tribute on Sunday in Lillooet on the bridge over the Fraser River.

Helicopter pilot believed dead after crash in B.C.

Authorities now believe that the pilot who was flying the helicopter that crashed into the Fraser River in British Columbia on Friday is dead. Our sincere condolences to the family and co-workers.


Robert Christopher Woodhead, 53, of Stoney Creek, Ont., was operating a Bell 212 helicopter with a line and water bucket Friday afternoon when the aircraft went down in the Fraser River, near Lytton, B.C.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Mounties believe Woodhead died soon after the chopper crashed in water 15 metres deep and with a swift current.

“We have met and spoken to the family,” Moskaluk said.

“It is believed that Mr. Woodhead perished in the river.”

Woodhead, who was based in B.C., was last seen in the water just after the crash by another pilot who was flying overhead.

That pilot tried to save Woodhead by lowering his own line and bucket into the water but the rescue attempt proved unsuccessful.

Moskaluk said search crews have recovered Woodhead’s flight helmet, as well as pieces of debris from his helicopter, but they have yet to find the man’s body in the water.

“In incidents of this nature, with the incertitude of the person’s fate, it leaves all in a suspended state of deep grief,” he said.

“Our thoughts, along with those of all British Columbians, whose lives and homes were protected in this and in past fire seasons by the courageous efforts of ground firefighters and the pilots assigned to battling these blazes, are with the Woodhead family at this time.”

B.C.-firefighting helicopter crashes into river, pilot missing

From the C.P.:

LYTTON, B.C. — The search continues in the rushing waters of the Fraser River for an Ontario helicopter pilot whose aircraft crashed while fighting one of the many forest fires burning across British Columbia.

The Bell 212, piloted by 53-year-old Robert Christopher Woodhead of Stoney Creek, Ont., was operating as a waterbucket on the 12-square-kilometre Intlpam fire near Lytton late Friday afternoon when it went down.

The helicopter is now submerged in 15 metres of water flowing at about 16 kilometres per hour, but there’s no sign of Woodhead, who was the only person in the aircraft.

Woodhead’s family in Stoney Creek say they aren’t commenting on the search.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk of the RCMP says the federal Fisheries Department and a local search-and-rescue squad have boats on the water and a Mountie helicopter is searching from the air, but he says the water is too rough to use divers.

Moskaluk says witnesses reported seeing the pilot surface after the crash, prompting the Mounties to focus thier efforts on the water and riverbanks.

The B.C. Forest Service had contracted the chopper, which is the second aircraft the crash this fire season, although this is the first fatal crash.

A single-engine (air tanker) crashed into Okanagan Lake on July 25, but the pilot escaped without injury.

UPDATE at 5:10 p.m. MT, Aug. 15

The story has been updated by the Canadian press at 2:36 p.m. MT today. Here is an excerpt:

KELOWNA, B.C. — An Ontario helicopter pilot who was helping to fight one of British Columbia’s many forest fires was still missing Saturday, a day after another pilot flying overhead was unable to pull the man from the water in a dramatic rescue attempt.

Robert Christopher Woodhead, 53, of Stoney Creek, Ont., was operating a Bell 212 with a waterbucket Friday afternoon when the aircraft when down in the Fraser River near Lytton.

Woodhead, who was based in British Columbia, was last seen in the water just after the crash by another pilot who watched from the air as the helicopter went down, said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

“A valiant attempt was made by lowering his line and bucket into the river near Mr. Woodhead,” Moskaluk said in an interview.

“However, he was not successful in getting the line to him and did eventually lose visual sight of the pilot in the water.”

Moskaluk said police are still considering the search a rescue operation, and are concentrating their efforts on the riverbanks in what is considered a particularly rough part of the Fraser Canyon.

Thomas Marovich, service details

The Fremont Fire Department has set up a web page with the details about the funeral services for Thomas Marovich, who died in a rappelling accident on the Backbone fire on July 21.

More details are at the Fremont site, but here are the funeral arrangements:

Funeral services for Tom are planned on Thursday, July 30th at 10:30 a.m. at Saint Clements Church, 750 Calhoun Street, Hayward (corner of Calhoun and Mission Blvd.). Internment will follow the services at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery (just North of the church on Mission Blvd.) A reception following the services is planned and announcements will be made during the services.

HERE is a link to a map of the church location.

Witness: air tanker’s landing gear was down before crash into lake

A local resident who saw the single engine amphibious air tanker crash on a lake in British Columbia on Saturday said the Air Tractor 802F’s landing gear was down when it attempted to scoop water to refill its tanks.

Canwest news service

From the Canadian Press:

A father and his son defying an evacuation order to save their waterfront home from a raging forest fire instead ended up in a race to save a waterbomber pilot whose plane had crashed into the lake.

Ed Hall and his son Fraser chose not to leave when 2,200 of their neighbours were ordered to do so on Thursday and the Terrace Mountain fire spread in the hills across the lake from Vernon.

Fraser Hall said he was testing out some new video equipment Saturday, filming as the planes dipped into the lake to get water to dump on the fire.

“And this last guy came in and we looked at each other and said ‘Oh my gosh he’s got his landing gear down,’ and we knew this was a recipe for disaster,” Ed Hall said in an interview Sunday.

The pair watched in stunned amazement as the plane somersaulted along the water.

“But fortunately, the cockpit landed cockpit up. So the pilot was sitting in the cockpit, you know, kind of stunned or dazed or maybe he was unconscious, we’re not sure,” the father said.

Ed said he was already on his way to his boat before the plane hit the water.

An officer in a nearby RCMP zodiac boat arrived at the same time as the Halls and the pilot was pulled out within seconds.

While the officer took the slightly-injured pilot to receive care, the Halls attached a tow rope to the plane, attempting to salvage the plane.

“It went poorly,” Fraser Hall explained. “We were slowly pulling it along and we got about maybe 50 feet and the body slipped off the remainder of one of the pontoons and it headed for the bottom.”

Luckily, he said, the rope snapped, or their boat may have been dragged down with it.