Photos of Tanker 123 memorial

Air Tanker 123 memorial
The memorial to the crew of Air Tanker 123 at the Big Elk Meadows VFD at Lyons, Colorado. Google photo.

In the discussion among our readers about the memorial to the three-person crew of Air Tanker 130 that was killed in a crash in 2002 near Walker, California, the subject of another crash the same year came up. Tanker 123, a P4Y-2 Privateer, crashed while maneuvering over a fire near Estes Park, Colorado. Both pilots, Ricky Schwartz and Milt Stollak were killed. All five of the pilots are listed on a memorial at the Greybull, Wyoming airport, but in the article’s comments someone asked if there was a memorial related to the Estes Park crash somewhere in Colorado, and we asked for photos if anyone found the site. Helpful answers provided enough information for Eric to find it recently who took the photos below.  Thanks Eric.

We Googled Eric’s description which produced this Google Maps result, including the photo at the top of the page. It looks like the flagpole has been moved since the first photo, above, was taken. The site is about 8 air miles northwest of Lyons, Colorado — but much farther by roads.

Air Tanker 123 memorial
Air Tanker 123 memorial. Photo by Eric Ward.
Air Tanker 123 memorial
Air Tanker 123 memorial. Photo by Eric Ward.

Here is what Eric wrote about the memorial:

As requested, here are a couple pictures of the Tanker 123 Memorial, which also includes Gordon Knight, who was also killed on the Big Elk Meadows fire, 7/30/02, when his helo went down during firefighting operations. I’d forgotten that one…so 3 pilots lost on one fire in two separate incidents.

The memorial is located in the driveway of the Big Elk Meadows VFD, at 42 Willow Road, Lyons, CO. It’s off CR 47, off US 36 Hwy. Big Elk Meadows is a private subdivision, but no one seemed concerned that I was there looking at the memorial – I assume it’s there to be seen.  It’s about a 30 minute round trip off US 36 to drive up and see it.

4 thoughts on “Photos of Tanker 123 memorial”

  1. There is a turn out that overlooks 123’s crash site. There used to be a memorial there too. Not sure if it still is. The crash took place pretty close to HWY 36, on the south side of the road. You can still see the site, for some reason the Forest had all the trees that were in the site cut down. You can still hike to the spot and see parts of metal laid out on the stumps. I named the fire, was the first IC, and then the next day IA’d the tanker crash. It was pretty surreal cutting hot line around a fire that had an airplane in it.

  2. I knew both pilots well, and have time in the airplane (T-123). There before the grace go we all. Neither Rick nor Milt ever imagined there would be a monument in a forest with their name on it, but none of us do. It’s hard not to put one’s self in their place and wonder what our own might look like, despite our best efforts to never have one.

    It’s been 20+ years, but I have a very clear recollection of watching Rick doing a high speed run in pouring rain, in a Cessna 310, after we’d just installed new brakes. He was a man of not so many words, who believed in making things happen, a very hands-on kind of guy who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Nothing at all pretentious about him, no ego. He loved to fly.

    There are a lot of things two decades ago that I can’t remember, but it’s hard to look at the picture of the memorial and not recall the airplane, and Rick and Milt like they were here yesterday. Memories are funny that way. Sometimes a little painful, too. I was strapping in for a fire dispatch when I got notice via a phone call from a reporter, that T123 had crashed. That could have happened yesterday, too. Bad day.

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