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Incident Name: Norcross Incident
Date: 07/23/07
Personnel: Dennis L Davis
Age: 60
Agency/Organization: Idaho Helicopters, Inc of Boise ID, under Contract with US Forest Service
Position: Pilot, Aerial firefighter

Summary: Pilot Dennis Luster Davis was dropping a package of drinking water for fire fighting crews engaged in the Elk Complex on the Klamath National Forest. The water package was suspended from the underside of the Bell 205 A1++ helicopter by a 150-foot line. Firefighters on the ground watched as the package of water was set down on the ground. The helicopter drifted to the right and the rotor contacted a tree. The helicopter subsequently crashed and a post-crash fire consumed most of the aircraft. Pilot Davis was killed in the crash.

Dennis Davis Dennis Davis

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"...crashed on the Klamath National Forest, 12 mi South/Southeast of Happy Camp, CA; in the Bear Creek Watershed near the Marble Mountain Wilderness."

Best guess for the location:

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • US Forest Service: 72 Hour Briefing (28 K pdf)
  • US Forest Service: Norcross Incident Facts (16 K pdf)
  • Information from the NTSB, USFS, AAP, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • July 23, 2007 - Bell helicopter accident
    • 1 killed: Dennis Davis
    • Idaho Helicopters, Under Contract with US Forest Service
    • Bell 205 A1++
    • impacted trees then mountainous terrain near Happy Camp, CA
    • Registration tail number: #N205BR
    • NTSB # LAX07TA227
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report (77 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (232 K pdf)

    The pilot's failure to maintain clearance with the trees during a long-line operation. Contributing factors were the Forest Service's iInadequate communication between crews, failure to properly assess the safety of the intended drop zone, reduced visibility to the right side of the helicopter, and the trees.

  • NTSB: Full Narrative (html)
  • US Fire Administration Memorial Database: Dennis Luster Davis

For more information on this crash, consult NTSB website, NTSB Identification # LAX07TA227

Bell 205 A1++, N205BR Bell 205 A1++, N205BR
Blivet drop site Blivet drop site
Crew Location, Drop Site and Strike Tree Crew Location, Drop Site and Strike Tree

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Boise pilot dies in helicopter crash

    July 24, 2007 | Online Article  (No longer online)

    Dennis Davis was delivering water to firefighters in California, investigators are still trying to determine the cause.

    Dennis Davis told his wife he loved her and missed her and was ready to come home during a telephone conversation lasting more than an hour Sunday night. That was the last conversation the Boise couple shared.On Monday morning, Davis, 60, died in a helicopter crash while piloting his aircraft and delivering water to firefighters battling a blaze in Klamath National Forest in Northern California.

    Vicki Davis , his wife, was emotionally distraught and unable to speak with an Idaho Statesman reporter. Her sister, Judy Vosburg , said the couple shared a magical marriage and were best friends."Just last night she said, 'I want you to fly right and be safe and please come home,' " Vosburg said. "He said 'I love you, and I miss you.'

    "Investigators were trying to determine what caused the chopper to go down in "extremely rugged" mountain territory about 12 miles southeast of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County, said Duane Lyon, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. Davis worked for Idaho Helicopters and was under contract with the U.S. Forest Service, although he was not a government employee. He was the only person in the aircraft. Davis' helicopter was carrying a large water container to refill hand-pump backpacks for firefighters on the ground.

    Some firefighters saw the helicopter crash and reported it to emergency dispatchers. The cause of the crash is under investigation, officials said. More than 1,100 fire crews were battling the cluster of about 30 lightning-sparked fires covering 14 square miles near the Oregon state line.

    "I have no regrets. I absolutely love this man. He was my playmate, my best friend, my traveling buddy. He was my everything," Vicki Davis said through her sister.Vosburg said the couple had been married for 12 years and moved to Boise from Sedona, Ariz., about seven years ago.

    Vicki Davis owns the Herb Pantry on Curtis Road, where Dennis Davis had office space for his naturopathic practice.Davis was a true Renaissance man, Vosburg said. He was a Vietnam veteran and had piloted helicopters since his 20s. He had a passion for antique trucks and cars. He adored cats and had adopted strays. He had worked as a police officer in Palm Springs and at one time owned his own flooring and painting business. He was active with the Shriners.

    Davis and his wife had recently discussed whether this was to be his last fire season, Vosburg said.Vosburg said her sister is devastated because she had waited until her early 40s to get married. Dennis Davis became a widower 13 years ago. He has two grown daughters from that marriage."Their relationship was so special because everybody wanted to be around them," said Vosburg, an Idaho Statesman employee. "I just want to say, I don't want it to be him. He was too neat of a guy. What a sad, sad day."Funeral arrangements are pending, she said.

  • Tragedy in Happy Camp

    July 28, 2007 | Happy Camp News: Online Article

    People of Happy Camp and the surrounding area faced several fatalities in the past few days. A Forest Service contracted helicopter making a delivery to fire lines crashed. The victim of the helicopter crash has been identified as Dennis Luster Davis, 61, of Boise ID. Davis was a pilot for Idaho Helicopters and flew a Bell 205, type 2 helicopter, tail number 205BR.

    Now, two food service workers who were employed at fire camp have also drowned in the Klamath River. They went swimming at Clear Creek.

    Clear Creek is a popular swimming hole, but local families swim upstream in the creek, as you may see depicted on the mural on the side of Parry’s Market on Davis Road. The Karuk people have an ancient legend that a giant black snake who lives in a cave down at Ishi Pishi falls comes and will pull under a swimmer in the Klamath River. Perhaps that account explains the current that can sweep away an unsuspecting swimmer in the stream of the Klamath River. The worst thing a person can do is exhaust himself in fighting the current, Perhaps we take too lightly the danger of water sports.

    A second swimmer’s body has now been located – Richard Pearson, Jr. 31; the body of George Barbis, 35, was recovered from the Klamath River earlier. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the families.

    Closer to home, a Happy Camp resident, Harriet Merkler, was fatally injured in a roll-over accident on Highway 96 a few miles east of Happy Camp. Her husband, George, 81, was flown to medical care, but survived. Two minors in the car were not seriously injured.

    To all the friends and family we wish to express our sympathy and condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sorrow.

    Update: At dawn, July 28, 2007, community members and fellow firefighters gathered at the Happy Camp River Park to remember and honor nine firefighters and camp employees who lost their lives over the past twenty years on the Happy Camp Ranger District. Approximately 1,100 of participants honored the fallen during an early morning sunrise ceremony.. July 28th is significant as it is the fifth anniversary of three Lassen National Forest Firefighters who lost their lives on the Stanza Fire in 2002.

    The remembrance included presentations from the Forest Service Honor Guard, including a CALFIRE bag piper, and a Karuk prayer. Comments were presented by Klamath National Forest Supervisor Peg Boland and Happy Camp District Ranger Alan Vandiver, as well as friends and co-workers of those who have passed. Pastor Bill Estes from the Happy Camp Assembly of God offered an invocation, followed by inspirational thoughts from Elk Complex Incident Commander Mike Dietrich. The Honor Guard performed a ceremonial ‘Last Alarm’, five bell rings sounded three times, as has been the tradition for over 100 years. A Forest Service bagpiper concluded the remembrance with a rendition of Amazing Grace.

    /pFire camp employees George Barbis and Richard Pearson, Jr., under contract to the Forest Service, were lost in an off-duty drowning accident in the Klamath River. George and Richard had also been workers with Teen Challenge.

    In August of 2006, Pilots Andrei Pantchenko and Terry ‘Jake’ Jacobs perished following the crash of their helicopter into the Klamath River. During the 2002 Stanza Fire, Firefighters Heather DePaolo, John Self and Steven Oustad died after their fire engine left the roadway and traveled 1,200 feet downhill in a tragic accident. During the 1987 Slater Fire, San Bernardino National Forest Firefighter Bruce Visser was killed after being struck by a motorcycle while performing structure protection duties.

    A significant number of firefighters remained on the fireline during the remembrance to ensure that Elk Complex fires did not escape their current containment efforts

  • Veteran Boise Pilot Dies Fighting Wildfires

    7/24/2007 | Online Article (No longer online.)

    BOISE -- A Boise helicopter pilot delivering water to firefighters battling a blaze in the Klamath National Forest in Northern California died when his helicopter crashed Monday.

    Dennis Davis, 60, worked for Idaho Helicopters in Boise and was flying under contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

    Davis was the only one on board the helicopter and investigators are trying to determine the cause of the crash in "extremely rugged" mountain territory about 12 miles southeast of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County, CA.

    The helicopter was carrying a large water container to refill hand-pump backpacks for firefighters on the ground. Some firefighters saw the helicopter crash and reported it to emergency dispatchers.

    Friends and fellow pilots in Boise who worked with Davis were stunned by the news. "It's just too bad," said Idaho Helicopters pilot Steve Sandmeyer. "He was a devoted pilot." And a devoted husband and father, a family spokesman says.

    Dave Lakhani, a close family friend, told CBS 2 Eyewitness News that Davis had flown for more than 45 years in some of the toughest conditions on earth including two-and-a half tours as a medivac pilot in Vietnam, as a helicopter pilot for the Pomona, CA police department, as a Life Flight pilot for St. Al's and for the last nine years fighting wildfires throughout the Northwest.

    When he wasn’t fighting fires, Davis was a naturopathic doctor at The Herb Pantry, a business owned by he and his wife Vicki Vosburg.

    In a statement, Vicki Vosburg said that "Dennis chose to start flying the fires because he was so concerned about the number of animals losing their lives in the fires and the families that were being displaced by the fires, he just wanted to do something to help. He was such an experienced pilot that it makes this tragedy so unexpected and much harder to comprehend."

    He is also survived by two grown daughters from a previous marriage, Tracie and Stacie.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • USFS Heroes Memorial: Dennis Davis
  • USFA Memorial Database: Dennis Luster Davis
  • Program from Fire Remembernce Service near Happy Camp, CA: Service, 2007 (4.43 MB pdf)
  • Obituary: Submitted by his wife Vicki Vosberg

    I, Vicki Vosburg, am writing this in love and memory of my husband Dennis L. Davis who died on July 23, 2007, due to a helicopter accident in Happy Camp just north of Yreka, CA. He was a helicopter pilot fighting fires. Dennis was born August 2, 1946 in Palm Spring, CA to Sally and Ben Davis, Sr. He was born with a passion for humans and animals alike. He would give the shirt off his back, or food from his hand to any person or animal in need.

    He had a zest for life...and all that it offered. He received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1978 and was awarded a Master of Science Degree becoming a Naturopathic Physician in 2004. When he wasn't fighting fires, he specialized in Nutrition and Iridology being a devoted healer who worked closely with me in my store, The Herb Pantry, in Boise, Idaho. Dennis was a master of every trade he endeavored and he had a passion for a variety of things.

    Dennis' career in firefighting actually started as a teenager when he joined his local fire department as a volunteer. He joined the military in 1965 starting out in firefighting, but then decided to go to Warrant Officer School to become a helicopter pilot. He was an experienced helicopter pilot flying for more than 40 years including 2 ½ tours in Vietnam, most of his time there flying Med-Evac. During his time in Vietnam he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star Medal.

    He was a pilot flying helicopters for the police department in Pomona, CA; he flew tours over & around the red rocks of Sedona, AZ; Life Flight for St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho, and finally fighting forest fires nationally.

    He was a proud father of his two daughters, Tracie and Stacie, from a previous marriage, and a proud "Papa" of his three granddaughters, Ashley, Megan & Amanda.

    In his life he dabbled in many things, beauty school, lock-smith, gun-smith, painting wallpapering, private investigator, but he always came back to his helicopters.

    In 1994 we met and married. We had a whirlwind courtship and a fairytale marriage for 13 magical years. Together he and I shared a love of life and activities like kayaking, camping, bike riding and snowshoeing. Dennis was a member of Idaho Masonic Lodge #1 and was also a Shriner, active in the Players Unit.

    Dennis had planned to make this his last fire season, in order to be home full time with me and fully concentrate on our natural health-care business.

    We had a "thing" that we did every night on the phone when he was in the field. He would say "I love you, I'll see you soon" and I would say "Be safe, my honey, I love you."

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Contributors to this article: Wildland Firefighter Foundation, John Miller, Rene Vanderhooft, Mellie, RJM

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