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Incident Name:  Dry Creek 2 Fire on the Wind River Indian Reservation
Date: 8/18/1970
Personnel:  2 lives lost
Age:
Agency/Organization: owned by John and Ray Elgin owners of Aero Flite in Cody, WY, under contract with BLM
Position: aerial firefighters

Summary:
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

John Bastian & Ray Elgin with A-34 John Bastian & Ray Elgin with A-34
A-34 in flight A-34 in flight

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Maps

General Location: Dry Creek Drainage west of Crowheart, WY

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • 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

    Ray Elgian & John Bastian named as fallen Ray Elgian & John Bastian named as fallen
    Ray Elgian & John Bastian named as fallen 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)

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Contributors to this article: Mellie, WY Fallen Firefighters Memorial

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