Update: Officials ID pilots killed in mid-air collision fighting Nevada blaze

David Blake Haynes. Photo Courtesy: Facebook

CALIENTE, Nevada, Aug. 20, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Officials have identified two pilots who died in a mid-air collision of their single engine air tankers (SEATs) on July 30 while fighting Nevada’s Bishop wildfire.

The pilots have been identified as David Blake Haynes and Scott Thomas. Haynes, 62, was from Arkansas. It’s not clear where Thomas was from. 

The pilots made stops at the Cedar City Regional Airport about an hour before the crash.

Chris Hanefox, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management Ely District, said the pilots stopped to load more fire retardant at the southern Utah airport.

The fatal crash happened at about 12:55 p.m., in the skies about 17 miles southwest of Caliente.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the BLM Nevada Ely District,” said BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby in a statement after the crash.   

Gov. Gary Herbert also released a statement after the crash: “These pilots play a critical role in preserving life, property, and natural landscapes during wildfire season and I am grateful for their service. My prayers are with the families of these dedicated servants.”

The Bishop Fire, classified as human caused, broke out July 29 and burned an estimated 14,000 acres. It was fully contained Aug. 8.

SEATs are small airplanes used to support firefighters on the ground, said a news release from the BLM Nevada. They can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant and operate in areas where larger airtankers cannot. Contract pilots play an important role in wildland firefighting efforts as the BLM protects the public, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and other values and resources, the news release said. 

The fatal collision is under investigation. Gephardt Daily will have more information as it is released.


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