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Incident Name:  Union Creek Fire, Tieton Ranger District, Snoqualmie National Forest
Date: Helicopter accident: August 3, 1965, 1354 hrs; Died: August 26, 1965
Personnel: Cecil R Ginn
Age: 31
Agency/Organization: Evergreen Helicopter, Inc under contract with the US Forest Service
Position: Fire Information Officer from the Forks District, Olympic National Forest

Summary: On 8/3/65, Cecil Ginn (Fire Intelligence Officer) and Jack Gubb (Fire Safety Officer also from Olympic NF) were returning to the main firecamp after a hiking reconisance of the Union Creek fire. The fire had blown up on 7/21 and was burning in a remote and rugged part of the Snoqualmie NF. Their transport back to firecamp was by helicopter.

The helicopter lost power in its tail rotor at 500 feet above Crow Creek and crashed. All three men initially survived but Cecil Ginn died two weeks later from his injuries.


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General Incident Location: someplace along Crow Creek, Tieton Ranger District, Snoqualmie National Forest; if anyone visits who knows a more specific location, please let us know.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • from "Some Fire Recollections: Union Creek Fire" by Jack Grubb in Memorable Forest Fires: Stories by the U. S. Forest Service Retirees, 1995, Gilbert W. Davies & Florence M. Frank, FS Retirees, eds, pages 205-210.

    [summary of the rescue story from the book]

    When the tail rotor lost power, the helicopter was artfully piloted to the ground by Al Cole, pilot of the "three place Bell Helicopter". Cecil was in the left seat; Jack was in the right seat; and Al piloted from the center. As the helicopter auto rotated down, Al turned off all valves and electrical circuits except the master fuel valve. This prevented fire following the nose-down crash. All three were wearing their seatbelts and all three initially survived. Other helicopters arrived quickly -- within 5 minutes. A LZ had to be cut in the trees to get rescue helicopters in and out. Al Cole and Cecil Ginn appeared to be the worst injured. Al had hand injuries and what the rescuers thought might be an injury to his pelvis and Cecil had a very badly broken femur. Jack Grubb had what turned out to be a chip fracture of his ankle and a dislocated shoulder.

    The rescue helicopters had a weight limit. Al was transported by helicopter first and after him, Jack. The helicopters flew with minimal fuel, had to refuel, and once they landed, the injured were transported from the airport by ambulance to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. The last of the two airlifted men arrived at the hospital before 1900 hrs, about 5 hours after the accident.

    Cecil was a 300 pound man -- although he was in excellent hiking shape -- and was too heavy to be airlifted out on the small craft available. Heavier military helicopters were requested, but none could respond due to weather. Cecil was finally carried out in a litter, one and a half miles downhill and three miles up. He didn't arrive at the hospital until 0330 hours, about 13 1/2 hours after the accident. He died as a result of his injuries almost two weeks later on 8/26/1965.

    The cause of the accident, as determined from the investigation was a broken connecting rod. The connecting rod for number 3 piston broke. The piston slammed into the head, causing a three hundred sixty degree crack ariound the head. The crack did not connect with itself. Analysis of the connecting rod revealed that a non specification rod had been installed in the engine at the last overhaul.

  • Check the NTSB Lookup Utiliy.

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Contributors to this article: John Miller, Mellie


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