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Incident Name:
Date: October 14, 2003
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: Weyerhaeuser, Eugene Helicopter Operation under agreement with Oregon Department of Forestry
Position: aerial firefighters

Richard W. Black, 57, pilot
David Craig Mackey, 53, ODF Oregon Forest Unit Supervisor

Pilot Black and Forest Unit Supervisor Mackey were involved in a reconnaissance flight to locate water supplies for future fire suppression operations. They were flying in a Weyerhaeuser-operated Bell 206B helicopter. The pair located water supply locations that could be utilized by helicopters and recorded their GPS location for future use. After about an hour in flight, the helicopter was proceeding along a river when it collided with a 5/8-inch neutral/ground cable line that was strung across the Siuslaw River. The weather at the time was cloudy and foggy. The helicopter fell approximately 250 to 300 feet into the river and came to rest in about 3 feet of water. The cable was entangled in the wreckage. Pilot Black and Forest Unit Supervisor Mackey died from multiple traumatic injuries. The cable that was struck by the helicopter was not marked as a flight hazard on maps. The same cable run was involved in a non-fatal helicopter crash in 1974. The cables have been in place since 1956 and have never been marked.


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Swisshome, OR

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, ODF and research by the WLF Staff:
    • October 14, 2003
    • 2 killed: Richard Black, and D Craig Mackey
    • Operator: Weyerhaeuser, Eugene Helicopter Operation
    • Type: BELL 206B
    • Location: Siuslaw River, near Swisshome, OR.
    • FAA Registration # N86W
    • NTSB # SEA04LA005
  • National Transportation Safety Board: example Factual Report (93 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) Probable Cause (26 K Pdf)

    The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from power lines while maneuvering. The power line, mountainous terrain with high obstructions (thick trees and underbrush) and the operators failure to maintain a "hazard map" as indicated in their procedures manual were factors.

  • NTSB: Full Narrative (html)
  • For more information consult the NTSB online lookup Utility Use NTSB Identification: SEA04LA005

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Media Articles and Reports

  •  Two Killed In Oregon Helicopter Crash Classified As LODD

    10/16/2003 | Article no longer online at Firehouse.Com News

    Two firefighters who were killed in a helicopter crash October 14 while scouting for dipping pools for wildland firefighting, have been classified by the U.S. Fire Administration as line of duty deaths.

    Forest Protection Supervisor David "Craig" Mackey and pilot Richard Warren Black of Weyerhaeuser Corporation were surveying the Siuslaw River for potential dip sites that could be used by water bucket-carrying helicopters for fighting fire.

    Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal said the helicopter was flying low when it came upon unmarked power lines. It appears the rotor got entangled, and the helicopter crashed into the Siuslaw River below, in west central Oregon.

    Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Rod Nichols said the cause of the accident is officially still under investigation by the NTSB and FAA.

    David Craig Mackey, who went by Craig, became an Oregon Department of Forestry employee in 1974 and started out as a Forest Officer at the Marcola Guard Station in the Eastern Lane District, Nichols said.

    In 1975 he was hired as a permanent Forest Officer, and two years later he was promoted to Forest Technician. In 1987 that job evolved into Forest Protection Supervisor in charge of training and prevention, the position he held until his death.

    Nichols said that Mackey, 53, was actively involved in firefighting and served as Incident Commander during part of the Sulphur Creek Fire in the Western Lane District last summer. In his office he had several miniature helicopter models and his aviation patch centered on the wall. Mackey also held the Air Attack position on the department's Incident Management Team 3 and was qualified as an Air Operations Branch Director. In addition, he was certified as a Type I Fire Investigator.

    Mackey is survived by his wife, two daughters, two sons and a grandson. His hobbies included collecting and restoring motorcycles.

    Memorial services for Craig Mackey were held October 18 in Eugene, with personnel from several fire agencies forming a long procession of fire engines that traveled to the service.

    Richard Warren Black, 57, had been a pilot for Weyerhaeuser Corporation since 1984, doing forestry related work such as firefighting, scouting and fertilizing, Mendizabal said.

    He was a Vietnam veteran, had over 15,000 hours of flight time and was a certified flight instructor. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

    Black was also an avid outdoorsman, bicyclist and a cancer survivor, and his family asked that any donations in his memory be made to the Lance Armstrong Cancer Research Fund.

    Mendizabal said fellow pilots described him as a rock. "He was a guy anybody could go to about anything, any time," he said. "His reputation was a guy who never had a bad thing to say about anybody."

    Mendizabal said Black and Mackey had worked and fought fires together many times.

    "The fact that we not only had a helicopter crash, but we lost two very, very good people, was really tough," he said.


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • USFA Memorial Database: Richard Warren "Dick" Black | David Craig Mackey
  • State of Oregon MemorialRichard W Black | D Craig Mackey
    D. Craig Mackey died on October 14th, in a tragic helicopter accident. Both the pilot and Craig lost their lives. He was on a mission to map new water holes for firefighting purposes. Craig began his career with the Oregon Department of Forestry in 1974. He was a Forest Protection Supervisor, a firefighter his entire career. He is missed. (From the Memorial Document)

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Contributors to this article: Scott Roberts, Mellie

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