Soldiers make their way onto the tarmac July 11, 2012, for the arrival of the remains from Dover Air Force Base of four N.C. Air National Guard airmen in Charlotte, N.C. Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, Maj. Joseph McCormick, Maj. Ryan David and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon all died July 1, 2012, when their C-130 crashed while fighting a wildfire in the South Dakota Black Hills. Two crewmen were injured. (Todd Sumlin / The Charlotte Observer via AP)
EDGEMONT, S.D. — Officials have dedicated a memorial in western South Dakota that honors North Carolina National Guardsmen whose air tanker crashed while they were fighting a wildfire last summer.
The interpretive site on a ridgetop northeast of Edgemont honors four airmen who died and two more who were injured. It was dedicated Monday on the anniversary of the crash in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Killed were Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, N.C.; Maj. Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont; Maj. Ryan David, 35, of Boone; and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, 50, of Charlotte. Injured were Chief Master Sgt. Andy Huneycutt, of Lancaster, and Sgt. Josh Marlowe, of Shelby. They were members of the Charlotte-based 145th Air Wing and were flying out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, helping drop flame retardant on fires in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The men were in a C-130 Hercules air tanker that crashed when it flew into a violent downdraft and was slammed to the ground. An Air Force crash report said the crew misjudged conditions.
More than 100 family members, friends and colleagues were on hand for Monday’s dedication ceremony. South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels addressed the crowd.
“We are honoring these six North Carolina Guardsmen for their heroism and we are dedicating this site so that people will remember them forever,” he said. “It is impossible for any words to pass my lips that can express our incredible gratitude for the sacrifices that these men have made … but they will always be remembered by this memorial.”
Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina Guard, called the ceremony “a moving tribute” to the tanker crew.
“The people of South Dakota and of North Carolina are forever bound together now because of this event,” he said. “Not only because we did eventually have a successful outcome of the White Draw fire, but just this tribute that will be here for eternity.”