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Incident Name: Dammeron Fire in southern UT near St George
Date:  6/17/2004, 1746 hrs
Personnel: Wayne Turner from Big Sandy, MT
Age: 58
Agency/Organization:  New Frontier Aviation of Ft Benton, MT under contract with Utah CCD
Position: aerial firefighter

Summary: On June 17, 2004, at 1746 hours mountain daylight time, a PZL M18 Dromader, piloted by Wayne Turner collided with terrain following a fire retardant drop near St. George, Utah. Wayne Turner, the pilot did a dry run, followed by a planned drop. On the second pass, the pilot said that he overshot final, and was going around. On the third pass, the pilot called downwind, base, and final. The pilot made no other transmissions, and did not indicate that he was having any problems. Witnesses observed the retardant exit the airplane. However, the drop was not at the desired point, and not distributed in an even line as the pilot's previous drops had been. The drop angled about 10 degrees to the final approach course. The drop ended at the convergent point of the L (beginning of the drop line) rather than starting at the end of the line. The drop pattern was wide and heavy at the beginning, and narrow and thin at the end.

About 2 seconds after the drop, one ground witness and one airborne witness reported that the nose of the airplane pitched up slightly, which they said was normal after a drop. All witnesses reported that the nose of the airplane then pitched down about 45 degrees. The airplane maintained this attitude until ground impact, and the witnesses observed an immediate fireball. The National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA, DOI and the BLM investigated. This was the third SEAT crash from the same company in three months. NIFC ordered a 2-day Safety Stand Down so that pilots could review operational specifications of the aircraft to make sure they were flying fast enough in the drop phase to remain airborne following the drop. There was no evidence of structural failure, flight control discrepancy, or obvious catastrophic engine failure at the site.

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The primary wreckage was at 37 degrees 19.562 minutes north latitude and 113 degrees 36.818 minutes west longitude at an estimated elevation of 5,900 feet.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 6/17/2004, SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker)
    • 1 killed, Wayne Turner
    • Operator: New Frontier Aviation, Inc. of Ft Benton, MT
    • Type: WSK PZL Mielec M-18A (Dromader)
    • Location: St George, UT
    • FAA Registration # N8214J
    • NTSB # LAX04GA243
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html)

    The pilot's failure to maintain an adequate airspeed margin, resulting in a stall and loss of control.

  • NTSB: Full Narrative
  • For more information consult the NTSB online lookup Utility. Use the date and the registration number: N8214J
  • SEAT Stand Down for Safety:
SEAT Standdown SEAT Standdown

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Big Sandy man ID'd as pilot in crash

    6/19/2004 | Online Article

    ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Authorities on Friday identified Wayne Turner of Big Sandy as the pilot of a single-engine air tanker who was killed Thursday when the plane he was flying crashed while battling a wildfire in southern Utah. Turner, 58, was a contract pilot with more than 21,000 hours of flying experience. He was flying for New Frontier Aviation, based in Fort Benton.

    The plane went down 14 miles north of St. George about 6 p.m., said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Wendell Peacock. The plane was an M-18 Dromader, one of 76 small, single-engine air tankers contracted by the BLM to fight wildland fires throughout the country.

    Dean Bomgardner, an employee at Taylor's Aviation in Fort Benton, has known Turner for the last 20 years. He said Turner was an instructor, and an extremely skilled pilot. "He did everything by the book," Bomgardner said. "We're going to miss him."

    New Frontier Aviation is owned by Andy Taylor of Taylor's Aviation, he said. 17-Bomgardner said Turner's plane is the third plane the company has lost this year. He said pilots have died in accidents in March in Arizona and in May in Idaho. Those planes were not being used to fight fires, but both were on fire-related assignments, he said. (more at the link above)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • There were three fatal accident in three months in 2004 involving a Dromader M-18 airtanker. All were owned by Montana-based New Frontier Aviation. The other two were not LODDs.
    • First accident - training: March 16, 2004 near Safford AZ, during BLM requalifying training exercises. Jim Towell, the SEAT pilot (N6259N) was making a practice retardant drop. The pilot lost control in flight with possible engine/propeller malfunction. The plane was destroyed and Jim was killed. The plane had been loaded with 400 gallons of water. After making a left turn and just before it went out of sight behind a small ridgeline, witnesses said the plane's engine surged two or three times and it was flying strangely with its right wing up and its nose down. (NTSB LAX04TA161).
    • Second accident - ferrying: May 22, 2004 near Borah Peak ID (11,000'), in adverse icing weather conditions. The SEAT collided with mountainous terrain, killing John Brandner. The plane was on a cross-country flight using visual flight rules (VFR) from Dillon MT to contract base in Boise ID, where it was to begin service for the BLM. (NTSB SEA04LA095).
    • Following the third accident in Utah, there was a stand-down so pilots could review the operational specifications of the aircraft.
  • USFA Memorial Database: Wayne C Turner
  • Utah Firefighters Line of Duty Deaths, 1920-2012 by Steve Lutz

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Contributors to this article:  Rose Davis, Steve Lutz

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