Flags to fly at half-staff in Arizona for fire personnel who died in plane crash
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday at all state buildings in honor of two wildland firefighting aircraft personnel who died Saturday in a plane crash.
Ducey said Monday the flags would remain at half-staff from sunrise to sunset.
Jeff Piechura, 62, and Matthew Miller, 48, were doing aerial reconnaissance and helping direct aviation resources over a lightning-caused wildfire burning outside the tiny community of Wikieup when the plane went down around noon, Arizona Bureau of Land Management officials said Sunday.
Piechura was the air tactical group supervisor and a retired Tucson-area fire chief who was working for the Coronado National Forest, while Miller was a pilot with Falcon Executive Aviation contracted by the U.S. Forest Service.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jeff Piechura and Matthew Miller, who were carrying out their mission on the Cedar Basin Fire in service of the people of Arizona,” Ducey said in a press release.
“My deepest condolences go to the Piechura and Miller families, their loved ones and colleagues. The memory of these brave, selfless firefighters will live on. Our prayers are with them and all of Arizona’s wildland firefighters serving in the face of danger to keep their fellow Arizonans safe.”
Dolores Garcia, spokeswoman for the Arizona Bureau of Land Management, declined to discuss any aspects of the crash on Sunday but hoped answers would be known in the coming days.
She said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Interior Department’s Office of Aviation Services will try to determine the cause of the crash.
Both were aboard a Beechcraft King Air C-90 aircraft.
“This reminds us of the inherent risks involved in wildland firefighting and the gratitude we owe to the courageous and committed men and women who serve willingly to protect lives, communities and natural resources,” Raymond Suazo, Arizona Bureau of Land Management state director, said in a press release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.