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Air tanker pilot killed while fighting fire mourned by family, friends: ‘My dad died a hero’

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Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt is shown in an image posted to Cal Fire’s Facebook page.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — A 62-year-old pilot killed when his air tanker crashed while fighting a wildfire in Yosemite was a former Navy veteran who was mourned by family, friends and co-workers Wednesday, KTLA-TV reported.

Geoffrey ‘Craig’ Hunt’s twin-engine S-2F3AT crashed under unknown circumstances Tuesday afternoon near the Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite. Officials had lost contact with Tanker 81 while the pilot was working the Dog Rock Fire, which grew to 252 acres Wednesday and prompted evacuations.

Once rescuers were able to hike to the crash site, they found Hunt dead.

“My dad died a hero,” his daughter Sarah Hunt Lauterbach said on the memorial page. “There was not a day that went by that I didn’t talk to my dad.  He was my best friend.”

Hunt served as a U.S. Navy P3 pilot from 1975 to 1984 and was in the reserves for two decades, the memorial page stated. He earned a master’s degree in business from USC, as well as a master’s in biochemistry from UC Santa Cruz, where he taught chemistry, KTLA-TV said.

He was a 13-year veteran pilot for Dyncorp International, which operates and maintains Cal Fire’s air fleet.

“We continue to mourn the tragic loss of Craig,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott in a statement. “We know wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, but Craig made the ultimate sacrifice.”

was a 13-year veteran pilot for Dyncorp International, which operates and maintains Cal Fire’s air fleet.

“We continue to mourn the tragic loss of Craig,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott in a statement. “We know wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, but Craig made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hunt’s plane was based out of Hollister Air Attack Base, about 30 miles south of San Jose, according to Cal Fire. It was manufactured in 2001, according to FAA records.

The state’s fleet of 22 Grumman S-2T air tankers were grounded in the wake of the crash, a spokesman for Cal Fire announced Wednesday.

 

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