Colleagues reflect on anniversary of deadly helicopter crash

Colleagues reflect on anniversary of deadly helicopter crash

WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - The Desoto Forest Ranger District was on "stand down" Wednesday, as the men and women pause to reflect and remember the helicopter crash one year ago. The tragedy happened during a prescribed burn.

Killed in the accident were 55-year-old Steve Cobb of Wiggins and 40-year-old Brandon Ricks of Oklahoma. A third man aboard the chopper, Brendan Mullen, miraculously survived the crash.

Wednesday, men and women of the Desoto District shared a private lunch at district headquarters in Wiggins, sharing memories and reflections about their friends and colleagues.

Before the luncheon, District Ranger Ben Battle, District Fire Manager Jay Boykin, and Acting District Ranger Andy Hunter took time to talk with Steve Phillips about the one year anniversary of the tragedy and how everyone is coping.

"It is an ongoing healing process," said Battle.

He said each person is at a different phase of that healing.

Jay Boykin was team leader on the prescribed burn that fateful day. He thinks about the tragedy often, especially before starting a burn.

"We've made some changes to improve things," said Boykin.

Among the changes is equipping the helicopter with an extra GPS type tracking device to keep close tabs on where the aircraft is at all times. That change came as a result of the crash, since Boykin says the ground crew had some initial difficulty pinpointing the location of the downed helicopter.

Wednesday's luncheon will certainly include remembrances of Steve Cobb, since many in the district office worked with him over the years.

"He was a good man," Hunter recalled, "And a real pleasure to work with."

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