Idaho pilot ID'd as man who died in Happy Camp crash

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. — A pilot who died in a helicopter crash while fighting a fire near here Monday has been identified as Dennis Luster Davis, 61, of Boise, Idaho.

Davis was delivering water to firefighters working on the Elk fire, near the Marble Mountain Wilderness, when the 1968 Bell helicopter he was flying crashed on a ridge in rugged mountains between Elk and Bear creeks midmorning Monday. The Forest Service had a contract with Idaho Helicopters Inc., of Boise, for the firefighting services of the helicopter and pilot, fire information officers said.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department reported that two deputies and a Plumas County, Calif., Hotshot crew that provided fire protection hiked three miles to the crash site to recover Davis' body Monday.

A fire crew and deputy carried the body out in a litter, while the second deputy secured the crash site for investigators, sheriff's department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said.

A Forest Service National Accident Investigation Team arrived Tuesday and has begun its investigation into the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board also has been notified and will investigate.

Vicki Vosburg, Davis' wife of 13 years, said Tuesday in a statement that her husband planned to quit flying this year to concentrate on his naturopathic medicine business.

In a telephone conversation the night before his death, she said, Davis told her that business was doing well enough that he could quit flying and concentrate on his shop.

"He was very committed to this being his last year, he was just tired of flying and wanted to help people get better," Vosburg said. "Dennis is the love of my life, the one person I can't imagine being without, he was my best friend, I don't know what I'll do without him."

Davis also leaves behind two daughters from a previous marriage.

Aviation operations on the Elk Complex were suspended at noon Monday, but resumed Tuesday morning, the Forest Service reported.

Fire crews continued to make progress against the 9,197-acre Elk Complex of fires, which is now 28 percent contained. Fire suppression efforts have cost about $8.9 million as of this morning.

Backfires have been set to consume fuel inside the fire line around the 1,952-acre Little Grider fire, which is now 60 percent contained. Line construction continues around the King Creek 2 fire, which is now 25 percent contained and has burned 2,975 acres. The Titus fire has grown to 2,043 acres and is 5 percent contained, with fire lines protecting buildings. The 916-acre Wingate fire is 5 percent contained and burnout operations to remove additional fuel have begun.

At 1,144 acres, the Elk fire is 40 percent contained, with a line carved on its northern and eastern flanks. The Hummingbird fire inside the wilderness has consumed an estimated 80 acres and has no containment lines in place.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Share This Story