Incident Name: drowning in the Illinois River, Kalmiopsis Wilderness, Siskiyou NF
Personnel: Tommy Roy Smith "Smitty"
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service Glice District of the Siskiyou National Forest
Position: Cave Junction Smokejumper, squad leader
Summary: This information comes from a booklet of Smokejumper LODD information and stories compiled by Carl Gidlund. Much appreciated... and thanks also to Brett Rogers...
Tommy Smith (Smitty) and two other smokejumpers had parachuted into the nearly inaccessible Illinois River Canyon area in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon. After completing their helispot building mission, they were trying to cross the Illinois River to reach the River Trail. Smith was a powerful swimmer, entered where the water was calm, but had a long 150' rope tied to himself that would be used to bring the rubber raft and their gear across. He made it across, started to climb out. but was dragged back in by the rope that was pulled by the powerful current. His body was recovered several days later. The rope had hung up on an underwater boulder, holding him just below the surface.
Approximate location of former Cave Junction Jumper Base in OR
- US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Tommy Smith
- Smokejumper Magazine, October 2010 account, Jumping into Helispots, by Ray Farinetti, reprinted with permission from the Book of Gobi II.
In the mid-60s all western forests were directed to initiate Pre-Attack Planning. This planning, when approved, designated logical places for development of such permanent features as helispots, pump chances, fire camp sites, etc. In 1966 the Siskiyou National Forest proposed that the Smokejumpers based at Cave Junction would be used to construct 24 helispots strategically placed throughout the Coast Range of Southern Oregon. Our boss, Delos Dutton (MSO-51), agreed, as it would give early and late season work to his jumpers and promote good will with the Forest. The helispots would be 150’ in diameter on ridge tops with good access and egress points. They would be used for fire suppression delivery and pick-up points. The plan was as follows: Two-three jumpers... (Read the rest at the link. There's a small reference to Tommy Smith. It's well written and interesting... Flavored with the lives of smokejumpers.)
- Oregon Death Index: Tommy R Smith
- Texas Birth Index: Tommy Roy Smith
- From the May, 1967 Illinois Valley News: Smitty is dead. Tall, lanky, always smiling Smitty, who had been jumping out of the Siskiyou Aerial Project for five years, drowned while making a river crossing after building helispots in the remote Illinois River Canyon area.
- Smokejumper's Obituary: Tommy R. Smith
Contributors to this article: Brett Rogers, Carl Gidlund, Wildland Firefighter Foundation, John Miller
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