BOISE, Idaho (ABC 4 News) - Two other heavy air tankers in Southern Utah remain grounded. They were taken out of the fight against the White Rock wildfire after Air Tanker 11 crashed Sunday in the Hamblin Valley of Iron County killing both the pilot and co-pilot.
Captain Todd Tompkins and Co-pilot Ronnie Chambless worked for Neptune Aviation Services out of Missoula, Montana.
Their P-2V Neptune tanker was making a low run to drop it's retardant load when a wing apparently hit something and the aircraft cart wheeled into the ground.
Randy Eardley of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said, "When something like this happens, it really does effect everyone across the country who work on wildfires." The flag at the NIFC and elsewhere were lowered to half staff.
"It was difficult flying that flag at half mast today," said Burk Minor of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. He knew Chambless. In fact, Chambless left his car in Minor's parking lot before taking off on what would be his last assignment.
The pictures of Chambless and Tompkins will be added to a wall at WFF. That wall honors those who died doing an inherently dangerous work.
Retired pilot Tom Janney said, "Sometimes you can see where you're going. Sometimes you can't. There's a lot of turbulence in some of the canyons and you get shook around pretty hard."
Janney also knew Chambless. "He was just a good kid," Janney said. "A bundle of energy. He loved to fly more than anybody I know. I'm going to miss my friends ... I'm tired of burying my friends every year."
And yet Janney knows he may yet have to bury more; Some fear this will be an especially brutal fire season.