N.C. Guard crew memorial needed
Published: Thursday, July 12th, 2012
Four North Carolina Air National Guard members were killed and two were hospitalized with injuries when their C-130 Hercules cargo plane crashed northeast of Edgemont Sunday, July 1, while fighting the 9,000-acre White Draw Fire. The tragedy hit us all hard.
Killed in the crash were pilot Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, Mooresville, N.C.; pilot Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, Belmont, N.C.; navigator Maj. Ryan S. David, Boone, N.C.; and flight engineer Senior MSgt. Robert S. Cannon, Charlotte, N.C. Injured and taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital was Sgt. Josh Marlowe, Shelby, N.C. A yet unidentified second survivor was flown to the Jaycee Burn Center Memorial Hospital at Chapel Hill, N.C.
The two pilots and Cannon were full-time N.C. Air National Guardsmen. Marlowe was an X-ray technician at a medical office. David was an analyst for a government contractor in Virginia. All four who died were married with children and were characterized as family men and loyal friends.
The crew was flying out of Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs and had the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) on board which carries the flame retardant chemical Phos-Chek. The MAFFS is a series of five pressurized tanks that dispense 3,000 gallons of chemicals at the rear of the aircraft in about five seconds as the four-engine plane flies low and slow over a fire.
The tragedy struck the two communities of Edgemont and Charlotte especially hard, along with the entire states of South Dakota and North Carolina, where the plane was based at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport as part of the N.C. Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing.
When called, these six crew members answered and looked forward to help stop the growing southwestern South Dakota wildfire started days before by a motorhome catching fire on Highway 18 about five miles northeast of Edgemont. Tragically, four lost their lives and two are fighting to recover from their injuries in the crash. It is probably a miracle that there are two survivors.
It has been a long time since either state has seen the loss of four good men serving their state and nation. We have plaques in nearby Custer State Park that mark the year and dates of historic wildland fires that have scarred the landscape. It would seem appropriate that South Dakota should fund the cost of a permanent monument along the highway near the crash site honoring the brave N.C. Air National Guard members who were killed and injured in this tragedy.
The six risked their lives trying to save lives and property by fighting the White Draw Fire from the air. The least we can do is recognize their valiant efforts and memorialize their names, lest we forget the high cost they paid.
It just seems like the right thing for us to do.
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