The aerial firefighting pilot killed in Monday’s Mount Hood K-Max helicopter crash has been identified as Tom Duffy, 40. Duffy was killed while fighting the White River Fire. Duffy was also a Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter pilot and the third generation of the Duffy family to fly rescue missions.
The Gallatin County Sheriff paid tribute to Duffy in a post on their Facebook page, detailing that he had flown SAR rescue missions for 20 years with his most recent mission flown on Aug 15.
“Tom was a world-class rescue pilot who instilled confidence in SAR volunteers on every mission. He was a big man with a big heart who brought calm and skill to every mission. In addition to flying, he was a husband, father, business owner, and church member. He went big in everything he did and will be deeply missed in the GCSAR community and beyond.” said Gallatin County Seach and Rescue.
Duffy worked for Central Copters based in Bozeman, Montana that was under contract for aerial firefighting with the U.S. Forest Service.
“This kind of news is never easy,” said Suzanne Flory, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service. “We have very limited information at this time, but an investigation has started, and it is ongoing.”
Duffy was also an active church leader in the Seventh Day Adventist Church with church leadership stating in a press release yesterday “The Adventist community in Bozeman is heartbroken by this tragic loss,” says Elden Ramirez, the Adventist Church president for Montana. “Our love and prayers are with Tom’s family and loved ones. Tom has a long history of dedicated service as an Adventist leader here in Montana and the Northwest and will be deeply missed.”
The White River Fire is still burning in Oregon and is currently 15% contained and almost 1,400 acres in size. The fire has now been burning for over a week and was started initially by a lightning strike that has continued to gain ground due to gusty wind conditions in addition to its remote location in densely forested terrain.
The K-1200 K-MAX “aerial truck” is the world’s first helicopter specifically designed, tested, and certified for repetitive external lift operations and vertical reference flight. After initially suspending production in 2003 due to low orders, renewed interest in the helicopter’s external load capabilities and use as an optionally piloted aircraft in military operations led Kaman to reopen the production line of the K-Max in 2017. The company’s last delivery of a K-Max was to Atlanta based Helicopters Express.
There are currently eight operators utilizing the K-Max in the United States, with several more orders on the books for future completion by the company.