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Incident Name:  Billy Mountain Fire near town of Applegate in Southern Oregon
Date: 9/3/1972, 1349 hours
Personnel: Gene Graham (Alva Gen Graham)
Age: 40
Agency/Organization: State of Oregon
Position: areial firefighter

Summary: On September 3, 1972 an Oregon Department of Forestry handcrew and two helicopters were firefighting resources working initial attack on the Billy Mountain Fire near the town of Applegate. Gene Graham was pilot of the double Rotor Kaman helicopter, call sign "Rotor One", dispatched from Medford OR, that was ferrying a bucket load of water to drop on the fire. The crew on the ground heard a loud bang and saw the helicopter in a sharp dive. The crash resulted in a fiery explosion and fire. Gene Graham did not survive.

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Maps

Accident location near Applegate, OR

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 9/3/1972, 1349 hours, called "Rotor One"
    • One killed, Pilot Gene Graham
    • Operator: unknown commercial
    • Type: Kaman H-43A
    • Location: Departure point was Medford, OR; crash site near the towns of Applegate and Jacksonville, OR
    • FAA Registration # N2853J
    • NTSB # SEA73FYI05
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html)

    Probable Cause(s)
    Rotorcraft - Flight control systems: Other
    Miscellaneous acts, conditions - Overload failure

    Factor(s): Miscellaneous acts, conditions - Separation in flight, fire after impact
    Remarks - Azmuth-to-Hub rod end, drive shafts failed due to tensile overload for undetermined reasons. Blades separated.

  • For more information, if there is any, consult the NTSB online lookup Utility Use NTSB Identification: SEA73FYI05
  • Oregon Death Index : Alva Gen Graham (spouse Shirli Graham)
  • US Social Security Death Index: Alva Graham

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

 

 

 

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Request: If anyone in the Grants Pass/Medrord area has access to archives of the Daily Courier (Grants Pass) or the Medford Mail Tribune (Medford), please see if you can find articles relating to the crash. If anyone knows more, please let us know. Thanks.
  • Recent update 9/31/2013: I found an article in the Magazine section of the Eugene Register-Guard dated Sep 10, 1972 that talks about aerial firefighting from the airtanker perspective. The last paragraph mentions Gene Graham's death, not making clear he was a fallen helicopter pilot, not a fallen airtanker pilot.
Gene Graham, helicopter pilot Gene Graham, helicopter pilot

 

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Eyewitness memory from Ken that began a search for this Always Remember incident:

My first year (1972) on a hand crew, in Southern Oregon working for Oregon Department of Forestry, we were working IA on the Billy Mountain Fire near the town of Applegate. Two helicopters were assigned to the fire. One of the Helicopters was stationed in Grants Pass, the other in Medford Oregon. The Helicopter from Medford crashed while ferrying a bucket load of water. The helicopter was a double Rotor Kaman and call sign was "Rotor One". Part of our crew ran towards the downed helicopter and we were within 50 yards when the ship exploded into flames. An engine arrived and we worked to put out the fire but could not save the pilot.. The pilot's name was Graham. The fire was eventually contained at 900 plus acres. I told the investigators that I had heard a loud bang and as I looked up the helicopter was already in a sharp dive. Both helicopters were hot spotting the edge of the fire, giving our hand crew support during line construction. I remember the Daily Courier and Medford Mail Tribune (newspaper in Grants Pass and Medford) both ran articles of the crash.

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Contributors to this article: Ken

 

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