CFFF Courage Vol.14 NA

Vol.14

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O n August 7, 1983, helicopter pilot Ron Phillips and his Bell 206B Jet Ranger departed the Alberta Forestry Service's Initial Attack base in Blairmore on a water dropping practice. Three members of an Initial Attack (IA) crew would meet Ron at a specified location near an abandoned highway at the south east side of Emerald Lake near the Crowsnest Pass. According to the IA crew, the helicopter arrived over the desig- nated drop area at about 1110hrs and found the marker without the aid of smoke generators. The helicopter was then observed dropping down to Emerald Lake for a water pick-up. At this point, Ron advised the Blairmore Forestry base to caution the second helicopter and pilot, who was inbound to the practice location, about power lines across the lake just south of the highway. At the time of the radio call, the second pilot was about to depart the forestry base and acknowledged the caution message. A few minutes later, Ron flew directly over the target and dropped his payload of water over the practice area. The IA crew reported to Ron that he had a "direct hit". Ron acknowledged the message and turned back toward the lake for a third pick-up. Moments later, the IA crew heard a loud noise, much like the sound of "rotor blade slap". Fearing that Ron was in trouble, the IA crew ran to the edge of the hill to see what had happened. Tragically, they saw the helicopter inverted and partially submerged in the lake. A distress call was sent to all forestry stations by the IA crew, and was promptly answered by the local RCMP who monitored the Alberta Forestry frequencies. Despite quick action by the IA crew in a borrowed boat, a fellow helicopter pilot who arrived within minutes of the accident, the RCMP, and a registered nurse who had been traveling the highway, they were unable to save Ron. Several witnesses in the area stated that the water bucket had struck the power lines - the very same power lines that Ron had just cautioned his fellow airmen about. Immediately upon contact with the power lines, Ron jettisoned the water bucket, but it was too late. The abrupt and violent stop caused the main rotor to sever the tail boom and cause considerable damage to the cockpit. The pilot and helicopter plunged 150 feet and landed inverted into the lake. Ron Phillips was a proven pilot who paid attention to detail and always thought of others before himself. He will always be remembered. In 2018, Ron Phillips was honoured on the Memorial Wall in Ottawa. Ron's brother, John, was able to travel from Alberta to attend the annual CFFF ceremony and witness his brother's recognition as a fallen firefighter. Gone but not Forgotten. 62 Remembering Wildland Pilot Ron Phillips By James MacKinnon CFFF Wildland Director Ron in his office

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