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Incident Name: Scott Able Fire, Lincoln National Forest
Date: 5/15/2000, 1235 hours
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Age: 
Agency/Organization:  Courtney Aviation (dba Skystar, Inc.), of Columbia, California under contract to the US Forest Service
Position: 

Summary: 

Sam Tobias, 47, ATGS, Lincoln /National Forest, of Ruidoso, NM
Leo Koponen, 49, pilot of Columbia, CA

Air Attack Pilot Koponen and Air Tactical Group Supervisor Tobias were beginning a reconnaissance flight to look for any fires that may have spread from the on-going Scott-Able fire. The aircraft was a Cessna T337C. Approximately 4 minutes after takeoff, black smoke was noted in the vicinity and calls were received from local residents reporting smoke in Alamo Canyon. A helicopter flying in the area confirmed that there was a downed aircraft and that there appeared to be no survivors. Investigators found that the aircraft had crashed nose first and that the deaths of both firefighters were immediate. The weather at the time of the flight was clear with a light wind. (from the USFA database)

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Maps

NE of the Alamogordo Airport (8.5 nm from Alamogordo's airport at 055 degrees) on a flat mesa above Alamo Canyon; N32 degrees, 52.20'; W105 degrees, 53.73'; elevation 6,257 feet

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, USFS, AAP, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • May 15, 2000
    • 2 killed: Leo Koponen, Sam Tobias
    • Operator: Courtney Aviation (dba Skystar, Inc.), of Columbia, California
    • Type: Cessna T337C Skymaster
    • uncontrolled descent, impacted terrain near Alamogordo, NM
    • FAA registration # N2522S
    • NTSB #DEN00GA089

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

 

 

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Media Articles and Reports

  • The Scott Able Fire, daily reports, day 6

    cloudcroft.com

    On May 15th, day 5 of the fire, the complexion of the situation changed completely when two men were killed in a spotter plane crash near the Alamogordo airport. Sam Tobias of Ruidoso and Leo Kopoman of Columbia, California died in the crash, which is still under investigation. Of the three major fires in New Mexico during this period (the Cree Fire near Ruidoso, the Los Alamos Fire, and the Scott Able Fire), these were the only two deaths associated with the blazes. (more at the link)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Sam Tobias read into the Congressional Record
Sam Tobias read into the Congressional Record Sam Tobias read into the Congressional Record
  • Campground named in honor of Sam Tobias
Campground honoring Sam Tobias Campground honoring Sam Tobias
  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Samuel James Tobias | Leo W. Koponen (Koponen listed under Aviation)
  • Photo of the Waymarker on Hwy 48 for Samuel J Tobias at Capitan NM, credit to waymarking.com Sam Tobias Marker Site Sam Tobias Marker Site
    Sam Tobias Plaque Sam Tobias Plaque

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Contributors to this article: Tim Stubbs aka NMAirBear, John Miller

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