March 12, 2015 - The lives of three men lost while on duty in a helicopter crash in 2005 were honored at a memorial ceremony held at Boles Field in Sabine National Forest on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
Charles L. Edgar, fire management officer on the Sabine National Forest; John Greeno, Bald Mountain helicopter manager with the Mi-Wok Ranger District on the Stanislaus National Forest in California, and Jose Victor Gonzales, a pilot with Brainerd Helicopter Service in Minnesota; made up the crew of a Bell 206 BIII helicopter which was participating in a United States Forest Service prescribed fire mission.
Just near Shelbyville was the area of the burn within heavily wooded terrain. During the mission over the trees at 1:54pm a distress call of, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, we are going down," was received by ground personnel indicating the helicopter was going down. All three men perished as a result of the incident.
Family members, co-workers and friends gathered at the Boles Field Pavillion on March 10, 2015 at 2pm to remember the men involved in the incident. Felix Holmes, a member of the U.S. Forest Service, was the master of ceremonies and he introduced different speakers as they took to the podium.
"Almost exactly 10 years ago about this time of day is when the accident occurred, so I'm proud to stand here and honor Charles [Edgar], [Jose] Gonzalez and Mr. [John] Greeno and thank them for the service they done, and I thank everyone for coming," said Holmes.
Eddie Taylor, Forest Supervisor Kisatchie National Forest, was the Forest District Ranger at the time of the incident and he shared some of what happened on that day, "When I heard the helicopter distress call I was standing next to Felix Holmes, District Dozer Operator, the district folks immediately went into action. What we found changed our lives forever."
Shelbyville Volunteer Firemen were some of the first on scene to help those who were involved in the crash and Taylor elaborated on their involvement, "We lost three great men, two on impact, one shortly thereafter. We had great support from the local volunteer fire department, such as Lewis Harbison and Britt Harbison trying to save the one survivor, Charles. We were not successful, although medevac was dispatched immediately. The entire event, the weekend, the funerals all seem like a large nightmare."
Adam Edgar, son to Charles Edgar, shared how his father considered so many of his co-workers to be family, "A couple of things that have struck me is the care and the concern of his forest service family, how I've heard a lot of y'all tell me personally that he would bring me up in conversation a lot when I was younger. He would talk about me, he would always tell me how proud he was of me, but I want y'all to know that when he was with me and my family, you as Forest Service personnel are the ones he talked about. He always considered y'all family and always spoke very highly of every one of you."
Edgar stated that his father loved what he did and made him aware of the dangers involved in his job, "He most definitely told me that you don't know how long you're here and he basically prepped me and told me that he did a dangerous job and he understood the risks, but it was something he loved to do."
Raymond Edgar, brother of Charles Edgar, was emotional as he spoke of the celebration of the men involved in the crash as well as his brother and his love for his job.
"Hopefully today can be about saving the lives of these men, because there's a lot to celebrate," stated Edgar as he fought back tears. "I'm the older brother, Charles' older brother, and Charles just grew up out in the woods like most of us country kids did in East Texas. He developed a love for music early on and that was a lifelong passion, a lifelong vocation and he loved the Forest Service, he loved the woods."
Marsha Cooper, United States Forest Service Fire Prevention Officer, worked side-by-side with Charles for years and was available for comment about the event, "The families said it brought them a lot of closure that day, I thought some of the things Adam said were really touching. 10 years ago it was one of the hardest days I've had to go through."