Croman S-61A helicopter experiences hard landing

S-61A hard landing Croman
File photo of a Croman helicopter taken in 2014. This is not the helicopter that experienced the hard landing August 19, 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

At approximately 7:15 p.m. PT on August 19, a Croman S-61A helicopter working on the Eldorado Fire eight miles southeast of Unity, Oregon experienced a hard landing. The incident occurred on the west portion of the fire near King Creek in the vicinity of a medical unit serving firefighters on the line.

According to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), two persons were on board. When the helicopter came to rest, both exited the helicopter and signaled that they were unhurt by waving to the medical unit. While no significant injuries were apparent, both individuals were transported by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Ontario Medical Center for further evaluation.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Baker City Herald:

…Gary Wiltrout, 67, of Boise, said he and his co-pilot Scott Talada, 65, of Baker City, had been flying for about six hours on Wednesday dumping water on the Eldorado fire when the engine failure occurred about 7:15 p.m.

They were taking water from a pond known as Murphy’s dip, near Highway 26 leaving Unity. Wiltrout said that up to that point, there was no indication there was anything wrong with the helicopter.“We had just picked up a bucket of water, then the engine rpm changed and we started losing altitude,” Wiltrout said. “I got rid of the water right away.”

Then, they lost an engine.

“I tried to make it out with one engine,” Wiltrout said.

The FAA reports there was “substantial damage” to the aircraft.

The helicopter has a Call When Needed contract with the U.S. Forest Service, but at the time of the accident it was working under the operational control of the ODF on one of their fires.