BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has ordered U.S. and State of Idaho flags to be flown at half-staff Friday after both pilots on board a helicopter that crashed Thursday afternoon in Lemhi County died.
The U.S. Forest Service said the CH-47D Series Chinook helicopter crashed at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and came down in the Salmon River. The pilots were helping fight the Moose Fire, which has burned about 37 square miles southwest of North Fork.
The pilots have been identified as 41-year-old Thomas Hayes of Post Falls, Idaho, and 36-year-old Jared Bird of Anchorage, Alaska. Lemhi County Sheriff Steve Penner said both the pilots were highly experienced and both were veterans.
On Friday, Gov. Little issued the following written statement:
“Our hearts our heavy with the news that we lost two firefighters, Thomas ‘Tommy’ Hayes of Post Falls and Jared Bird of Anchorage, Alaska, in the line of duty on the Moose Fire burning near Salmon. The men were experienced pilots, and both served our country in the armed forces. Our brave firefighters face extremely challenging conditions head on to protect lives, property, and the land. Idahoans are praying for the loved ones and colleagues of these firefighters as we grieve this tremendous loss. This tragedy will be deeply felt by the families and by the wildland firefighting community.”
Little orders all flags in the Gem State to fly at half-staff immediately, until the day after the final memorial service for the two pilots. The day of the final memorial service is currently unknown, but Little said an additional announcement will be released once the date is confirmed.
Flags flown over the Capitol building will be presented to the families of the pilots killed in Thursday's accident, according to Little's news release.
The pilots were employees of ROTAK Helicopter Services, which is based in Anchorage.
"Company leadership asks for prayers and privacy on behalf of the involved families at this time," the company said Thursday night in a written statement.
Penner said Lemhi County Dispatch was called about the downed helicopter at 4:48 p.m. Thursday. The sheriff's office, Salmon Search and Rescue, Gibbonsville QRU, Idaho Air Methods and Salmon EMT all responded to the scene.
"Upon arrival of the Lemhi County first responders, the United States Forest Service personnel were already diligently engaged in rescue efforts and lifesaving measures," Penner said in a news release, which also states that the pilots were extricated from the helicopter and taken to medical facilities, where they died from their injuries.
Little's entire flag directive is included below:
Please be advised that flags should be lowered to half-staff immediately starting Thursday, July 22, 2022, at the state Capitol building and at other state and local government buildings, for the tragic loss of two firefighter pilots, Thomas Hayes and Jared Bird, who lost their lives responding to the Moose Fire in Lemhi County.
The flags will be at half-staff immediately Thursday, July 22, 2022, until the day following the final memorial service, per Idaho Code 67-820.
The Governor's Office will send out an additional notification and update the web site at https://gov.idaho.gov/flag-status/ when the date of the final memorial service is identified.
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