Interim report released about helicopter crash at Idaho’s Moose Fire

N388RZ Boeing CH-47D at Penticton Airport
N388RZ Boeing CH-47D preparing to take off at Penticton Airport in British Columbia July 16, 2022. Image from VMC Aviation Videos.

The US Forest Service has released a brief initial report about the July 21 crash of the Boeing CH-47D helicopter in the Salmon River while working on the Moose Fire 20 air miles northwest of Salmon, Idaho. The two pilots were killed.

Below is the complete text of the narrative section of the document which was dated July 22, 2022, but was not posted on the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned site until today around noon.

On Thursday, July 20, a call when needed CH-47D Series Chinook Helicopter crashed into the Salmon River, adjacent to the Indianola Work Center approximately 11 miles west of North Fork, Idaho on the Moose Fire. The aircraft sustained severe damage, the pilots were extracted and transported to hospitals but both sustained fatal injuries. The NTSB has been notified and will be conducting an accident investigation. The USDA Forest Service has assigned a learning review team.

The pilots, the only personnel on board, were Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska.

The helicopter was operated by Anchorage-based ROTAK Helicopter Services.

The FAA confirms that the registration number of the helicopter is N388RA, which is one of two CH-47D ships ROTAK recently purchased from Columbia Helicopters.

area where the CH-47D crashed July 21, 2022
The general area where the CH-47D crashed July 21, 2022. Google Earth. The red shading represents an area burned in the Moose Fire.

There are unconfirmed reports that a hotshot crew was nearby when it crashed and they went into the Salmon River and extricated the pilots in an attempt to save them.

The last time Flight Aware tracked N388FA was at 3:02 p.m. MDT July 21. Because of the rugged terrain, it first showed it north of the Salmon Airport. Then it went northwest generally toward the Moose Fire and lost tracking at 3:12 p.m., minutes before it reached the river.

As an example of the terrain here is a photo of the Comet Fire I took a few years ago from Highway 93 just east of the current Moose Fire, 13 air miles north of Salmon, ID. The Salmon River is in the foreground.

Comet Fire, July 28, 2016
Comet Fire, July 28, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The video below was shot at Penticton Airport in British Columbia July 16, 2022 when it stopped for fuel en route from Alaska to Idaho.

The GoFundMe fundraisers for the two pilots can be found through the following links:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-jared-birds-family-moose-fire-crash

https://www.gofundme.com/f/thomas-tommy-hayes-moose-fire-crash