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Thread: Fiery Van Crash Kills 8 Ore. Firefighters

  1. #1
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    Fiery Van Crash Kills 8 Ore. Firefighters

    Fiery Van Crash Kills 8 Ore. Firefighters

    Van of Contract Firefighters Was Returning from Boise National Forest Wildfire

    REBECCA BOONE
    Associated Press

    VALE, Ore. (AP) -- Eight contract firefighters who had spent two weeks fighting an Idaho wildfire were killed on their way home when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded into flames.

    The van apparently tried to pass another truck on a curve and crossed the double-yellow line before it collided head-on with the truck Sunday morning, Malheur County Undersheriff Brian Wolfe said.

    It took more than seven hours for the section of remote eastern Oregon highway to reopen, once authorities recovered the bodies and highway crews shoveled ash and mangled debris onto trucks.

    The firefighters were identified as Ricardo ``Ricky'' Ruiz, 19; Mark Ransdell, 23; Jesse James, 22; David Hammer, 38; Leland Price Jr., 27; Paul Gibson, 25; Richard B. Moore II, 21; and Jeff Hengel, 21.

    The men worked for First Strike Environmental, a contract firefighting company and all were from Oregon.

    ``These were all fine young men who had worked together for two years,'' First Strike president Robert Krueger said in a statement. ``They were closer than most and the hole they leave is enormous.''

    Hengel's father, Brian Hengel, said his son loved firefighting and they had spoken shortly after the crew crossed into Oregon.

    ``He was doing it to make money to pay off his school bills and to pay off the truck I got for him,'' the elder Hengel said.

    The two occupants of the Swift Co. tractor-trailer were able to free themselves and were taken to a hospital with dislocations and burns, Wolfe said.

    Joy L. Nicholson, 39, was listed in good condition Monday, while Stephen Anthony Nicholson, 37, was treated and released, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Both are from Ogden, Utah.

    The crash, about 15 miles west of Vale, was under investigation.

    The van had been traveling with another First Strike van and a truck. Both those vehicles were about six miles ahead and did not see the crash, First Strike spokeswoman Leslie Habetler said.

    First Strike has been in business for more than 15 years and keeps about 200 firefighters on call during forest fire season. More than 90 percent of the privately contracted fire crews in the United States are based in Oregon.

    Fire coordinators said the van that was struck was coming back from a wildfire in the Boise National Forest about 25 miles northeast of the town of Cascade, Idaho.

    Before Sunday, 19 firefighters assigned to wildfires had died on duty this year, according to Tracey Powers, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Nine died in motor vehicle or aviation accidents, three died in fires, six died of illnesses and one died when a tree fell on his tent.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...1&sectionId=39

  2. #2
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    Van Crash Kills Eight Oregon Firefighters


    KGW.com and AP Staff
    Courtesy of KGW.com


    A van full of firefighters on their way home from a wildfire collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames Sunday, killing all eight inside and injuring the two people in the truck.

    The dead include two men from Portland, four from Roseburg and two from Myrtle Creek.

    Authorities said Portland residents Richard B. Moore II, 21, and David Hammer, 38, died in the crash. Roseburg firefighters Ricardo "Ricky" Ruiz, 19; Jeff Hengel, 21; Jesse James, 22; and Leland Price Jr., 27 were also killed. And the final two victims - Paul Gibson, 25, and Mark Ransdell, 23 - were from Myrtle Creek, Oregon.

    The firefighters were returning to Oregon from an Idaho wildfire late Sunday morning, when the van crashed on a remote eastern Oregon highway about 15 miles west of the town of Vale, Malheur County Sheriff Andy Bentz said.

    The van apparently tried to pass another truck on a curve and crossed the double-yellow line before it collided head-on with the truck, Undersheriff Brian Wolfe said. Investigators were looking into whether the van was in a passing zone when it started to pass but failed to get back into its lane before entering the no-pass zone.

    The occupants of the Swift Co. tractor-trailer, Steven Anthony Nicholson, 37, and Joy Nicholson, 39, were able to free themselves and were taken to an Ontario hospital with dislocations and burns, Wolfe said. Their conditions were not available Sunday night, but Wolfe said their injuries were not life-threatening. The couple is from Ogden, Utah.

    Witnesses said the collision ignited an immediate fire that burned the van down to its frame and melded it to the remains of the truck. On Monday, eight American flags stood in the charred earth where the collision occurred, along with a small stone on which someone had written, "Firefighters, rest in peace."

    "We're just working together," said Robert Krueger, president of First Strike Environmental. "This is like losing your own child.... We're hanging together."

    It took more than seven hours for the highway to reopen, once authorities recovered the bodies and highway crews shoveled ash and debris onto trucks.

    The firefighters worked for First Strike Environmental, a Roseburg-based contract firefighting company. Eight flags also stood outside the company's headquarters, one for each firefighter killed in the crash.

    Earlier Monday, Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich told NBC's Today Show that "so many of our residents will know at least one or two of those individuals.


  3. #3
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    Gibson, Paul

    Age: 25
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1442

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    Hammer, David

    Age: 38
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1440

  5. #5
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    Hengel, Jeff

    Age: 21
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1444

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    James, Jesse

    Age: 22
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1439

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    Moore II, Richard B.

    Age: 21
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1443

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    Price, Jr., Leland

    Age: 27
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1441

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    Ransdell, Mark

    Age: 23
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1438

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    Ruiz, Ricardo "Ricky"

    Age: 19
    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/24/2003
    Duty Type: Other
    Incident Time: 09:15
    Activity Type: Riding Vehicle/Apparatus
    Death Date: 08/24/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    First Strike Environmental
    256 Quarry Road
    Roseburg , Oregon 97470
    Chief: Robert Krueger

    Initial Summary:
    Eight firefighters died on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded in flames, killing all inside and injuring the two people in the semi-trailer.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    You can donate to the families of the fallen firefighters at any U.S. Bank, account # 153390139720, or you can donate online at the Wildland Firefighter's Association (http://www.wffoundation.org/donations1.html). You can also donate through the Oregon Firefighting Contracting Association's "First Strike Memorial Fund" at South Valley Bank and Trust, PO Box 5210, Klamath Falls, OR 97063, Account # 830495827.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1437

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    Families Mourn Loss of Ore. Firefighters

    Families Mourn Loss of Ore. Firefighters

    GILLIAN FLACCUS
    Associated Press Writer

    ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) -- He was 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, but Jeff Hengel was a "teddy bear'' to friends and family, a 20-year-old who used money he earned fighting wildfires to help pay for cooking school.

    Hengel was part of a crew of eight firefighters _ including six who grew up in and around this timber town _ who were killed Sunday when their van crossed a double-yellow line and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer as they were headed home from a grueling 14-day stretch of firefighting in Idaho's remote wilderness.

    "It's like losing your own son. Everybody knows everybody,'' said Bob Krueger, president of First Strike Environmental, the company the crew worked for.

    The deaths have left many mourning in this southwestern Oregon town on the banks of the Umpqua River, where the forest has provided jobs for more than a century.

    Hengel "was just a big teddy bear,'' Steve Kiepert, security officer at Roseburg High School, said of Hengel. "I don't think he had a mean bone in his body.''

    Hengel's mother, Judy, said his size belied his gentle nature.

    "The high school football coach wanted him so badly, but that kind of aggression wasn't his thing. He just didn't want to hurt anybody,'' she said. "He had an old soul.''

    Hengel began fighting fires in 2001 to help pay his way through the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, his family said. Recently, he worked in New Orleans and hoped to use this summer's firefighting money to go to Germany.

    "The kid was phenomenal. He had done more stuff in his short little life than I've done in my whole life,'' said his father, Brian Hengel.

    Also killed were Ricardo "Ricky'' Ruiz, 19, of Roseburg; Mark Ransdell, 23, of Myrtle Creek; Jesse James, 22, of Roseburg; David Hammer, 38, of Portland; Leland Price Jr., 27, of Roseburg; Paul Gibson, 25, of Myrtle Creek; and Richard B. Moore II, 21, of Portland.

    The collision happened on a remote highway in eastern Oregon, near the Idaho state line.

    A witness to the crash rescued the couple in the tractor-trailer: Stephen Nicholson, 37, and Joy Nicholson, 39, of Ogden, Utah, Malheur County Undersheriff Brian Wolfe said.

    The witness, Don Lammers, heard the crash from his nearby home. He pulled the couple and their dog across the road to safety moments before the fireball erupted, Wolfe said.

    Stephen Nicholson was treated and released from Holy Rosary Medical Center, and Joy Nicholson was in good condition Monday, hospital spokeswoman Angie Sillonis said.

    Ransdell's death came nine years after his older brother, Mike, was killed in a crash with a drunken driver, his parents said.

    "There's just no words, no words, to describe it,'' said his father, Dale, a retired sheriff's deputy. "It's so unfair. We were starting to get over the other one _ and now this.''

    Mark Ransdell's parents said he was just beginning to recover emotionally from the loss of his older brother and had been dating a woman he had met on the fire lines last year.

    Firefighting jobs attract a lot of recent high school graduates, who join crews like those employed by First Strike, said Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich, also an assistant principal at Roseburg High School. More than 90 percent of the privately contracted fire crews in the United States are based in Oregon.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...1&sectionId=39

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    Memorial Service Planned For 8 Oregon Firefighters

    Memorial Service Planned For 8 Oregon Firefighters

    First Strike Firefighters Memorial Service

    Roseburg, Ore

  13. #13
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    Alcohol Involved In Fatal Oregon Firefighter Crash

    Alcohol Involved In Fatal Oregon Firefighter Crash


    A toxicology report confirms alcohol was involved in the fatal crash that killed eight members of a contract firefighting crew in August.

    "Alcohol was involved in this crash. Some of the occupants had alcohol in their system and some did not. The driver did," Malheur County Sheriff Andrew Bentz said.

    The driver, 23-year old Mark Ransdell and seven other firefighters employed by Redmond-based First Strike Environmental were returning home August 24 after working for 11 days on a wildfire about 80 miles north of Boise, Idaho.

    Deputies say Ransdell crossed a double yellow line and struck a semi-truck traveling in the opposite direction on U.S. Highway 20, about 16 miles west of Vale.

    Bentz said the final toxicology report - including the blood-alcohol levels of the firefighters - will not be released until the Malheur County District Attorney has decided whether to file charges in the case.

    "The district attorney has to look at whether or not the company or anybody else has any criminal liability exposure," Bentz said. "This may have some significance because it's a company-owned van and happened on company time."

    Through its investigation, Malheur Co. deputies and Oregon State Police learned some of the firefighters had purchased alcohol along with other drinks and snacks at a Vale convenience story roughly 20 minutes prior to the crash.

    The president of First Strike Environmental said Malheur County authorities told him that a videotape supplied by a convenience store in Vale showed the crew purchasing beer, soda and snacks.

    Other crewmembers have independently confirmed the purchase of the alcohol, but they said it was placed in a cooler on a rack on top of the van.

    A Malheur Co. deputy told KATU News they believe the firefighters must have purchased alcohol before they arrived in Vale. The deputy said they haven't been able to track that purchase.

    Authorities were unable to get alcohol readings from all of the firefighters killed in the crash, but it was clear that the victims they were able to test did have alcohol in their systems.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...1&sectionId=39

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    Firefighters' Van Driver Allegedly Drunk in Oregon Fatal Crash

    Firefighters' Van Driver Allegedly Drunk in Oregon Fatal Crash

    VALE, Ore. (AP) -- A firefighter driving a van with seven colleagues had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit when they were all killed in a collision Aug. 24, according to court papers filed Thursday.

    Mark Ransdell had a blood alcohol content of 0.13 percent, records said. Oregon's legal driving limit is 0.08.

    Prosecutor Daniel Norris filed several charges, including reckless endangerment, against the company that employed the firefighters, alleging supervisors knew that large amounts of alcohol were being purchased but didn't intervene.

    An attorney for First Strike Environmental Co., David Terry, called the charges ludicrous.

    The firefighters were returning from an Idaho forest fire when the van crossed a double yellow line and struck a tractor-trailer head-on in eastern Oregon. The two truck occupants survived.

    Norris said crew members had purchased beer at a Vale convenience store minutes before the crash. Officials also found evidence the crew bought beer at a Cascade, Idaho, gas station.

    Terry said that supervisors were unaware of any possible wrongdoing. Company officials also questioned the accuracy of the blood alcohol tests, contending that the fire may have skewed the results.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...6&sectionId=39

  15. #15
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    Charges Stand in Fatal Oregon Fire Crew Crash





    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss charges against a firefighting company over the deaths of one of its crews in a van crash last summer.

    Eight firefighters working for First Strike Environmental, of Roseburg, were killed when their van crashed in eastern Oregon as they were returning from an Idaho wildfire.

    The company is charged with reckless endangerment and drunken driving, punishable by fines. The prosecution alleges supervisors at First Strike knew a large amount of alcohol had been bought during the firefighters' trip home.

    Umatilla County Judge Garry Reynolds rejected company arguments that it was also a victim in the case, and that a prosecutor failed to provide enough detail about the alleged drinking blamed for the crash.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...5&sectionId=39

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