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Incident Name:  Eight Mile Ridge Fire, Okanogan National Forest, WA
Date:  Monday, 6/23/58, about 1845 hrs
Personnel:  4 lives lost
Agency/Organization:  under contract with the US Forest Service fire, several smokejumpers were North Cascades Smokejumpers
Position: firefighters providing supplies from the air


Bob Cavanaugh, pilot(ex-military), from Medford OR, 35 years old
Robert Carlman, copilot, North Cascades SJ and Timber Sale Officer, Winthrop WA, Okanogan National Forest, 24 years
Keith Alonzo "Gus" Hendrickson, North Cascades SJ, Winthrop WA, Foreman, 29 years
Gerald Helmer, North Cascades SJ, Sweet Home, OR, 26 years

On June 23, 1958 at about 1845 hrs, three smokejumpers and the pilot lost their lives when their plane crashed into the 5000' high Eight Mile Ridge. The red, white, and black twin engine Beech Aircraft (N164Z) was performing a cargo drop of supplies to crews fighting the Eight Mile Ridge Fire. The impact with terrain was probably caused by a strong downdraft.

Art image from the Methow Valley Memorial Dedication Brochure, 2007

Art from the Methow Valley Memorial Brochure, 2007 Art from the Methow Valley Memorial Brochure, 2007

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Eight Mile Ridge, 15 miles north of Winthrop, Washington

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 6/23/1958
    • 4 killed, Bob Cavanaugh, Alonzo Keith (Gus) Hendrickson, Gerald Helmer, Robert Carlman
    • Operator: unknown
    • Type: Twin Beech
    • Location: Eight Mile Ridge Fire, Okanagan National Forest, WA
    • FAA Registration # N164Z
    • NTSB # None
  • From the Methow Valley Memorial Dedication Brochure, 2007:

    On June 23, 1958 Robert Cavanaugh was piloting the smokejumper airplane over a fire on Eightmile Ridge. He was making his final approach to drop cargo to the smokejumpers engaged in fighting the fire. Forester-smokejumper Robert Carlman, smokejumper Gerals Helmer, and Smokejumper Keith Hendrickson were preparing the cargo for the drop when the aircraft encountered a downdraft that sent the plane into the ridge, killing all on board.

  • From the Smokejumper Magazine: Eight Mile Ridge Fire. This is the account of the plane crash from the personal journal of Doug Baird, written during 1958, his rookie year at North Cascades Smokejumper Base.

    JOURNAL ENTRY, JUNE 30, 1958: It was an exciting first week of training, a great beginning! However, we didn't have the opportunity to enjoy the upcoming weekend. The events of the next few days cast a dark cloud over much of the summer. On Monday, June 23rd, a great tragedy occurred. As an on-the-spot witness I will relate the incident to the best of my knowledge. During the weekend of June 21-22, severe lightning storms were forecast for the Cascade Mt. Range of northern Washington. As a result... (Excellent first-hand account. Read it.)

  • Smokejumper Obituaries: Robert A Carlman | Keith Alonzo (Gus) Hendrickson | Gerald "Jerry" Helmer
  • Washington Death Certificates: Robert A Carlman | Robert H Cavanaugh, Jr |  Alonzo Keith Hendrickson | Gerald E Helmer
  • Article from the Spokesman-Review:
    • Eight Mile Ridge Fire Plane Crash, 1958 Eight Mile Ridge Fire Plane Crash, 1958
  • Smokejumpers Killed in the Line of Duty (359 K pdf) from the National Smokejumper Association (on page 20 of 56)
  • Twin Beech from Wikipedia


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  • Theysaid: 9/14/06, raising money for the memorial

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Media Articles and Reports


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Rt 20 at Winthrop, WA