Incident Name: Dry Creek 2 Fire on the Wind River Indian Reservation
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: owned by John and Ray Elgin owners of Aero Flite in Cody, WY, under contract with BLM
Position: aerial firefighters
James Ray Elgin, pilot, age 52, of Cody WY
John Bastian, co-pilot, age 23, of Burns WY
On August 18, 1970 air Tanker A-34, a B-17T, was ordered from the West Yellowstone Airfield and Smokejumper Base to drop retardant on the Dry Creek 2 fire west of Crowheart, Wyoming. Chief Pilot Ray Elgin, age 52, and Co-Pilot John Bastian, age 23, immediately took off and headed for the designated drop zone in the mountains of the Wind River Indian Reservation. During one pass on the fire, with the pilots fighting squirrelly winds, the B-17 delivered its slurry but failed to gain altitude. According to eyewitness accounts, the plane then struck some trees with its left wing causing the aircraft to flip over, crash and explode. Ray Elgin and John Bastian were killed instantly.
Credit: WY Fallen Firefighters Memorial
General Location: Dry Creek Drainage west of Crowheart, WY
- Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, state of Wyoming and research by the WLF Staff:
- August 18, 1970 - Tanker A-34
- 2 killed: James Ray Elgin, John Bastian
- Operator: Aero Flite in Cody, WY owned by John and Ray Elgin
- Type: Boeing B-17F: Flying Fortress
- Pullup from swath run, collision with trees near Crowheart / Dubois, WY
- FAA Registration # N1340N
- NTSB # DEN71FXA05
- National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) | Probable Cause (49 K jpg screensave)
The fire drop was downslope side of the mountain on a downwind run. The pilot in command misjudged altitude and clearance and failed to obtain/maintain flying speed. Factors in the accident were: high density altitude and downdraft, updraft.
- For more information consult the NTSB online lookup Utility. Use NTSB Identification: DEN71FXA05
Ray Elgian & John Bastian named as fallen
- Warbird Registry: N1340N -- Operated by Aero Flite Inc, Cody, WY, January 19, 1968-1970.
- Flown as tanker #A34.
- Re-Engined with 4 Rolls Royce Dart Turboprops & Rotol propellers from a Vickers Viscount, Twin Falls, ID, 1970.
- Crashed while fire bombing, Dubois, Yellowstone Park, WY, August 18, 1970.
- US Social Security Death Index: James R. Elgin
- Smoke Jumpers Staticline publication, 1996 page 11, Tragedy in the Wind River Mountains (download of entire document is 5 MB pdf)
- Wyoming LODD memorial 2010: Brochure with dedication to 1970 fallen (400 K pdf)
- Wyoming Fallen Firefighters Memorial: James Ray Elgin | John Bastian
- US Aerial Firefighters Memorial Wall: Ray Elgin | John Bastian
- Find a Grave: John Bastian
- Pine Bluffs Cemetery in Pine Bluffs, Laramie County, Wyoming
- YouTube: Air Tankers at Wenatchee in the Golden Age - 1970 includes images of A34 and other aerial firefighting WWII-origin fire bombers taking off and landing
Contributors to this article: Mellie, WY Fallen Firefighters Memorial
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