Site to honor White Draw Fire victims
Published: Thursday, May 30th, 2013
One year to the date after four North Carolina National Guardsmen died when their C-130 went down while battling the White Draw Fire near Edgemont last year, an intepretive site telling about the fire and and those who fought it will be dedicated near the site where the plane went down.
With the help of over $3,700 in private donations, with checks ranging from $10 to $2,300, the site is being constructed, a joint project between the donors and other volunteers, the U.S. Forest Service and the South Dakota Army National Guard (ANG).
Forest Service and National Guard personnel were hard at work on the site last week, grading and putting up fence around the area, which will eventually feature two 6x6 poles with fabricated signs affixed to them. The 3x4 signs will be similar to those that are found at interpretive sites on National Forest land. one sign will be dedicated to the fire itself, with facts, figures and photos about the fire.
The second sign will be the Mobile Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS), of which the men who crashed were a part of. Part of that sign will include a section about the four killed in the crash, as well as the two survivors.
Killed in the July 1, 2012 crash were Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, N.C., Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont, N.C., Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone, N.C., and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, N.C. Sgt. Josh Marlow and Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Huneycutt were the only two survivors when the C-130 Hercules air tanker belonging to the 156th Airlift Squadron crashed. An Air Force report later the crew misjudged conditions and flew into a wind burst that slammed them to the ground.
Mark Francisco, 1st Lt. with the ANG said the work is being done through Innovative Readiness Training, allowing for the ANGâï¿½ï¿½to train soldiers while also giving back to the community.
“I think it’s a great opportunity tot give back and have that connection to the events that occured,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“Most people think the only time a casualty happens is overseas. That’s not the case. I think for the community, it’s something that goes to show we do other things beyond fighting wars overseas.”
Seven soldiers from both the Guard’s 842nd Engineer Co. of Spearfish and the 200th Engineer Co. of Mobridge worked to prepare the site, along with Forest Service personnel. Two of the National Guardsmen who helped on the site were also among those who helped recover the plane in the days following the crash. One of those is SPC Taylor Hagel, who worked a blade on the interpretive site.
“It was nice getting to help, but it was on some bad circumstances,” Hagel said of the plane recovery effort. “It was nice to be chosen to do that.”
Because of his work in recovering the plane after the crash, Hagel said it was extra special for him to be able to help work on the interpretive site.
“It means a lot they chose me to help with a project like this,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“Iâï¿½ï¿½haven’t got to do a whole lot of work like this before in the Guard.”
The July 1 dedication ceremony is an invitation-only private ceremony that will include the families of those who died in the crash. Following that, the site will be open to the public.âï¿½ï¿½The site is located roughly five miles north of Edgemont just to the west off Hwy. 89.
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