WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - The men and women of the Desoto National Forest district were on "stand down" Wednesday. They paused from their regular duties, to remember the helicopter accident that killed two forest service employees one year ago.
The men and women of the Desoto Ranger District held a private luncheon to share memories of their colleagues and reflect on what happened a year ago.
"It's been challenging. I think it's been an ongoing process of healing. But we do have each other. We've spend extra time focusing on the needs of each other. And we've gotten through it as a family. We continue to recover from it," said District Ranger Ben Battle.
"The entire region is taking a pause today to remember this day and to honor those that lost their lives. And it's good for us too. We just wanted to get together and tell stories, relax a little bit and get through the day," said Fire Management Officer Jay Boykin.
Boykin was team leader on the prescribed burn one year ago. In an instant, it seemed, they went from routine burn duties to rescue and recovery mode with a helicopter down. Among the victims: Steve Cobb, who had spent decades with the forest service.
"He was a good guy. He had a good heart. Christian. He loved his family, loved his co-workers. He would do anything to help you," said Acting District Ranger Andy Hunter.
"I could easily say he was the best firing boss in the region and probably in the country. He knew what he was doing. He was the best there was," said Boykin.
Forest service workers are once again in the midst of prescribed burn season; doing their jobs. But even a year later, they still think about the accident often.
"It's hard not to. Every day we get ready to do a prescribed burn, you tend to think about those things, about what happened and what could we have done. And we haven't really found a whole lot we could have done different," said Boykin.
"It is part of the mission. But a large part of that was trying to get back to what we normally do. That in itself has a healing component to it," said Battle.
The crash killed Brandon Ricks and Steve Cobb. A third man, Brendan Mullen, managed to walk away from the wreckage. He suffered serious injuries from the crash, but has made a remarkable recovery.