MapsReportsWLF LinksMedia ArticlesMultimediaComments

 

Incident Name:  Sabine National Forest Prescribed Burn
Date: 3/10/05
Personnel:  3 lives lost (see below)
Age:
Agency/Organization: 2 US Forest Service employees; 1 Brainerd Company (MN) employee with helicopter -- under USFS contract
Position:

Summary:

John Greeno, USFS, Rx Ignition Specialist, Home Forest: Stanislaus NF CA, Age 51
Charles Edgar, USFS, Fire Management Officer on the Sabine NF TX, Age 54
José Victor "Joe" Gonzalez, Brainerd Company, Pilot, Age 45

Edgar, Greeno, and Gonzales were assigned aerial operations at a prescribed burn in the Sabine National Forest in Texas. The crew staffed a Bell 206B-3 helicopter (N85BH) that was assigned to drop plastic ignition spheres from a low altitude. During the first flight of the day, the sphere ejection machine jammed and the helicopter returned to base. The machine was repaired, and the helicopter and crew left to resume their mission. Six minutes after their departure, a helicopter crew member reported that sphere firing was beginning. Two minutes later, a distress call was received from the helicopter. The aircraft crashed into a heavily wooded area and all 3 occupants were killed.

Photos from the NFGT website:

John Greeno John Greeno
Charles Edgar Charles Edgar
Jose Gonzalez, Pilot Jose Gonzalez, Pilot

 

Horizontal line

Maps

Accident Location, near Shelbyville, TX

Sabine National Forest Map(896 K pdf file)

Return to top

Horizontal line

Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Forest Service Press Release No. FS-0527s (text below)
    Contact: Press Office
    by USDA Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth
    Forest Service Helicopter Crash near Center, Texas
    Mar. 11, 2005

A helicopter flight carrying two Forest Service employees and a pilot under contract with the agency yesterday afternoon crashed in southeast Texas. Charles Edgar, fire management officer on the Sabine National Forest, John Greeno, Bald Mountain heliport manager with the Mi-Wok Ranger District on the Stanislaus National Forest in California, and José Victor Gonzalez, a pilot with the Brainerd Company in Minnesota, all perished in the crash. The Forest Service employees were conducting a prescribed burning operation in the Sabine National Forest.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragedy. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family, friends and loved ones of Forest Service employees Charles Edgar and John Greeno. I know that the loss of these individuals is also devastating for the Sabine and Stanislaus coworkers of Charles and John. The Forest Service family is thinking of them during this very difficult time. I also want to extend my compassion and sympathy with the family, friends and loved ones of pilot José Victor Gonzalez.

“The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash. The Forest Service will cooperate fully with NTSB, the government’s chief investigative unit for accidents involving aircraft. In addition, the Forest Service has begun an administrative review to learn from what happened and to improve our safety procedures for the future.”

  • Initial Briefing from the US Forest Service: 24 Hour Report (252 K pdf download)
  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, USFS, AAP, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • March 3, 2005 - Helicopter accident
    • 3 killed: Joe Gonzalez, Charles Edgar, John Greeno
    • Brainerd Company under USFS contract
    • Bell 206B-3
    • impacted heavily wooded terrain on the Sabine National Forest near Shelbyville, TX
    • Registration: N85BH
    • NTSB # DFW05FA086
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report (101 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) | Probable Cause (230 K pdf)

    While in a slow flight out of ground effect the helicopter lost control and impacted heavily wooded (100-110 foot trees) terrain while on a United Stated Forest Service (USFS) prescribed fire mission. The prescribed fire was supported by the application of aerial ignition spheres utilizing a cabin mounted plastic sphere dispenser (PSD) machine. According to USFS operating procedures, PSD missions are typically flown at 50-300 feet above the top of the highest vegetation at airspeeds from 20-40 knots. While on the mission a radio distress call,"Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, we are going down," was heard on the mission operating frequency. According to USFS personnel, the voice making the distress call appeared to be that of the ignition specialist on board, not the pilot. No further communications were heard from the helicopter. Post accident examinations and testing of the engine, fuel control, and power turbine governor did not reveal conclusive evidence of mechanical failure. Examination of the airframe did not reveal evidence of a control system failure. Fuel calculations determined that the helicopter should have had about 36.9 gallons of usable fuel on board at the time of the accident. Evidence at the accident site showed some rotation signatures of dynamic drive components, although a power level could not be determined. The USFS inspection of the PSD machine did not reveal evidence of a malfunction that could have contributed to the accident. The helicopter was within weight and balance limits for the type of operation. The reason for the loss of control could not be determined. The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: The pilot's failure to maintain altitude and clearance for undetermined reasons.

  • National Transportation Safety Board: Full Narrative (html)
  • For additional information, consult the NTSB Query Utility Query Utility. NTSB identification # DFW05FA086.
  • Accident Review Board (ARB) Action Items (from a 2005 FAM powerpoint presentation - large pdf download)
    • Recommendation 1: Include in FS agency policy, relative to pilot approval (carding), a requirement that agency pilot inspectors review/verify pilot time for those pilots that have never been approved by the agency (Initial approvals). Subsequent approvals would not require this review for total time.
      • A. Modify all Forest Service aircraft contracts to require contractors, submitting pilots for initial approval, provide verification of pilot flight time through employment history to include contact information in a standardized format.
      • B. Review contract language to ensure appropriate remedies where pilot qualifications are incorrectly reported.
      • C. Modify FSM 5700 and FSH 5709.16 to require pilot inspectors to verify pilot time for all initial pilot cards, utilizing verification records provided by contractor.
      • D. Ensure all pilot inspectors are briefed regarding the changes at annual pilot inspector workshops.
      • E. Make recommendation to DOI, Aviation Mgmt Directorate regarding above changes to incorporate into OPM 21.
    • Recommendation 2: Recommend to Interagency committee to include a requirement in the Interagency Aerial Ignition Guide pre-mission briefing that addresses PSD flight profile “watch out” situations including but not limited to loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE), Settling with Power, etc.
    • Recommendation 3: Require pilots being evaluated for an Initial pilot approval (carding) demonstrate to the Inspector Pilot their skill in low level, low airspeed maneuvering in a PSD flight profile during flight evaluation.
      • A. Modify Interagency Helicopter Practical Test Standards document to incorporate requirement.
      • B. Ensure all pilot inspectors are briefed regarding the changes at annual pilot inspector workshops.
  • US Forest Service Heroes: John Greeno | Charles Edgar | Joe Gonzales

Return to top
Horizontal line

Wildlandfire.com Links:

  • News release and condolences posted on They Said It March 2005 (starting 3/10) with a rememberance of the fallen every March 10.
  • Hotlist: Remembrance Thread
  • The funeral for Charles Edgar took place Sunday, March 13 in Hemp Hill, TX.
  • The funeral for Jose Victor Gonzales took place Thursday, March 17 in Puerto Rico.
  • The funeral for John Greeno took place Friday, March 18 at the Sierra Bible Church on Tuolumne Road, Tuolumne County CA.

Return to top

Horizontal line

Media Articles and Reports.

  • Three dead in helicopter crash

    3/14,2005 | Online Article (no longer online)

    A helicopter under contract to the U.S. Forest Service crashed Thursday during prescribed burning operations in a national forest in east Texas, killing three people, officials said. Pilot Jose Victor Gonzales and passengers John Greeno and Charles Edgar were the only occupants of the craft and died at the scene, said Heather Crustner, a dispatcher with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

    The helicopter, a Bell 206B-3, went down about 60 miles northeast of Lufkin, said Gay Ippolito, a public affairs officer with the Forest Service. The helicopter had flown all morning, then refueled and returned to fly in the afternoon over the rural, pine-studded region, said Shelby County Sheriff Newton Johnson. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, Ippolito said. As a precaution, the Forest Service grounded aviation operations in Texas' national forests and grasslands.

  • Forest honor guard planned for John Greeno

    3/14/2005 | UnionDemocrat.com Article (no longer online)

    The body of the Stanislaus National Forest Helitack superintendent killed Thursday in a Texas helicopter crash is to arrive tonight at Columbia Airport, where his family, close friends and Forest Service representatives will be waiting.

    John Greeno, 50, was one of three people killed while doing a controlled burn in Sabine National Forest on the Texas-Louisiana border.

    Stanislaus National Forest spokesman Jerry Snyder said Greeno's body will be transported from Center, Texas, today aboard a Forest Service DC-3 accompanied by several Forest Service staff including Jerry Perez, deputy supervisor of the Stanislaus National Forest.

    An honor guard of close friends of Greeno will carry the body from the airplane and accompany the family to Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home in Sonora. Whether Greeno's body will be carried on a Forest Service engine or in a hearse had not been decided this morning. The procession will involve Tuolumne County Sheriff's patrol cars in front and back, two Forest Service engines, Greeno's family and close friends and forest officials. California Highway Patrol officers will control traffic at intersections outside Sonora city limits, and Sonora Police Department officers will take charge inside the city limits.

    Greeno's wife, Lori Greeno, said a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Friday at Sierra Bible Church on Tuolumne Road followed by a reception at the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse Grounds on Rawhide Road.

    "The Forest Service has been wonderful," she said. "They ask me what I want, then they make all of the arrangements for me."

    Details about the helicopter crash won't be made public for several months, Snyder said.

    The helicopter, a Bell 206B-3 owned by Brainerd Helicopter Service in Minnesota and under contract with the Forest Service, went down just before 2 p.m. Central Standard Time, said Snyder. Also killed were the pilot, Jose Victor Gonzales of Brainerd Helicopter Service, and Charles Edgar. No other information was available this morning on Edgar and Gonzales.

    Greeno was Helitack superintendent of the Bald Mountain Heliport on Highway 108 in Tuolumne County, across from Little Sweden in the Mi-Wok Ranger District. He trained and supervised firefighting crews, ranging from one helicopter and three people during the off season to several helicopters and 14-person crews during the height of the firefighting season. A U.S. Forest Service employee for 25 years, he spent most of that time with the Stanislaus National Forest.

    He lived in Soulsbyville for the past five years with his wife, Lori; stepson, Marcus Terry, 14, and daughter, Montana, 11.

Return to top

Horizontal line

Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns' Statement of Condolences

    USA: Statement regarding the USDA Forest Service Helicopter Crash near Center, Texas

    11 March 2005

    by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns

    "A helicopter flight carrying two U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service employees and a pilot under contract with the Forest Service yesterday crashed in southeast Texas. Charles Edgar, fire management officer on the Sabine National Forest, John Greeno, Bald Mountain heliport manager with the Mi-Wok Ranger District on the Stanislaus National Forest in California, and Jose' Victor Gonzalez, a pilot with the Brainerd Company in Minnesota, all perished in the crash.

    "I would like to express my sincerest condolences for the terrible loss of life caused by yesterday's Forest Service helicopter crash in Texas. My warmest compassion goes out to the family and loved ones of Charles Edgar, John Greeno, and Jose' Victor Gonzalez, who were conducting important work in the Sabine National Forest to reduce hazardous fuels and protect communities from the threat of wildland fire. My heartfelt sympathy is also extended to the Forest Service and Brainerd Company coworkers experiencing grief at this time from this tragedy.

    "USDA and the Forest Service stand ready to assist the National Transportation Safety Board in its investigation into the cause of the crash."

  • Remembrance page hosted by the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas is no longer online and this is one reason Always Remember and FS Heroes exists. See below for text.
  • USFA Memorial Database: John Greeno | Charles Edgar | Joee Victor Gonzales
  • Edgar, Greeno & Gonzalez were honored posthumously with the Star of Texas Award on October 28, 2005. “The Star of Texas Award recognizes the important work that peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel perform every day, and they honor our first responders for the sacrifices they have made in the line of duty.” (TX Governor's Office)
  • Texas helicopter crash kills three

    NFAA Update at xusda.com (472 K pdf download, text below) (no longer online)

    A helicopter flight carrying two Forest Service employees and a pilot under contract with USFS crashed March 10 in southeast Texas. Charles Edgar, fire management officer on the Sabine NF, John Greeno, Bald Mountain heliport manager with the Mi-Wok Ranger District on the Stanislaus NF in Calif., and Jose’ Victor Gonzalez, a pilot with the Brainerd Co. in Minn., all perished in the crash.

    "I would like to express my sincerest condolences for the terrible loss of life caused by yesterday’s Forest Service helicopter crash in Texas," said USDA Secretary Johanns. "My warmest compassion goes out to the family and loved ones of Charles Edgar, John Greeno, and Jose Victor Gonzalez, who were conducting important work in the Sabine National Forest to reduce hazardous fuels and protect communities from the threat of wildland fire. My heartfelt sympathy is also extended to the Forest Service and Brainerd Company coworkers experiencing grief at this time from this tragedy."

  • Archived from the Sabine National Forest Remembrance Page (the page is no longer available on the internet).

    March 10th, 2005, a helicopter crashed while conducting a prescribed burning operation on the Sabine National Forest in southeast Texas.

    The Bell 206B-3 helicopter, N85BH, was carrying two Forest Service firefighters and a pilot under contract to the Forest Service. The helicopter sustained substantial damage when it impacted trees in heavily wooded terrain. All three men died. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated.

    Lost in the crash were 3 Wildland Firefighters:

    • John McRae Greeno, 50, was the Bald Mountain Helitack Base Manager on the Mi-Wok Ranger District, Stanislaus National Forest in California. He was born in Redwood City, California and raised in Independence, California. He worked for the Forest Service for 25 years, starting as a temporary employee for California’s Inyo National Forest in 1979 where he developed a love for the fire service and a passion for firefighting. John later began work for the Stanislaus National Forest in 1988, working as crew boss on a hand crew and later became member of the helitack crew where he eventually became the helitack Base Manager. He coordinated efforts between operations and logistics at the base and aboard helicopters. John is survived by his wife, Lori, and two children. Greeno was honored posthumously with the Star of Texas Award [*] on October 28, 2005.
    • Charles Edgar, 54, was the Fire Management Officer for the Sabine National Forest and resided in Bronson, Texas. A lifelong resident of Sabine County, Texas, Charles began his 27-year-long Forest Service career in a temporary forestry technician position in April 1978. During his career, he received many awards for his outstanding work in prescribed fire and forest management. Charles was a U.S. Army veteran, having served with the 101st Airborne Unit in Vietnam. He was a member of First Baptist Church in San Augustine. His character was exemplified by a public service award he received for his support of the search and recovery efforts of the Space Shuttle Columbia. We will always remember Charles for his desire to put others before himself and his commitment to a healthy and beautiful national forest. Charles is survived by his son, Adam Edgar, and a brother, Raymond Edgar. Edgar was honored posthumously with the Star of Texas Award [*] on October 28, 2005.
    • José Victor (Joe) Gonzalez, 45, was an accomplished pilot whose passions in life were family, friends, flying, photography and traveling. He bravely served his country beginning with the Coast Guard at age 17, then later as an officer in the Naval Reserve. He traveled extensively and never backed down from a challenge; he was happiest when he was flying or just hanging out with his kids. Joe's life is an inspiration for us all and we will forever cherish the time we had with him. Joe left behind a daughter, Sara Maria Gonzalez, 12, and a son, Ricardo Gabriel Gonzalez, 11. Gonzalez was honored posthumously with the Star of Texas Award [*] on October 28, 2005.
John Greeno John Greeno
Sumac and Pines Sumac and Pines
Sabine NF Sign Sabine NF Sign
National Forests and Grasslands in Texas National Forests and Grasslands in Texas

Return to top

Contributors to this article: Lori Greeno, Mellie, John Miller and firefighter friends of Charles Edgar from the Sabine National Forest.

 

WFF Boots & Wreath logo. Please support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation