Helicopter Crashes, Kills One Near Moundridge

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Moundridge fire and EMS personnel begin dealing with Sunday afternoon’s helicopter crash, in which the pilot died. Local emergency workers were the first on the scene.

MOUNDRIDGE – Sunday afternoon was anything but ordinary.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday, McPherson County Dispatch received word that an aircraft had crashed in a field near Moundridge. Moundridge fire and EMS personnel were the first to arrive on the scene.

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Investigators comb through the wreckage of a helicopter crash Sunday afternoon in the middle of a field in on Buckskin Road west of Moundridge.

The aircraft was a helicopter, piloted by Roger Hershner, 66 of Sequim, Wa., who was apparently on a cross-country trip to Virginia, Kansas Highway Patrol officials said.

The pilot was the only person on board at the time of the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash took place between 19th and 20th Avenue on Buckskin Road, approximately half a mile into a muddy field.

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An FAA investigator from Wichita puts on rubber boots before traveling out into the muddy field to look at the helicopter crash.

A cause of the crash was unknown at press time, but Wichita FAA and Denver-based National Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating the incident.

Moundridge’s Brian Flynn lives nearby and heard the aircraft experiencing what sounded to be engine problems.

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Brian Flynn, of Moundridge, stands in the field next to Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper B. D. Gardner amid the helicopter crash debris. Flynn was the first person to arrive at the crash site after he heard the wreck and went to see if anyone was OK. The pilot, a man from Washington state, died in the crash.

Flynn said he heard the helicopter’s engine speed up, slow down, stop and speed up once more before everything went silent.

“We got out the binoculars and saw what it was,” he said. “Smoke was the first thing I saw.”

Flynn said he called 911 and then jumped on his four-wheeler to drive out into the field to see if there was anyone in need of help.

“I did not see a survivor,” he said. “It was hard to tell even what it was.”

Prior to the crash, Flynn said he was just working in his shop.

“I was just changing the oil,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a typical day.”

However, it was not ordinary at all, Flynn said.

“It’s not your typical Sunday,” he said.

Officials from the Harvey County Coroner’s Office pronounced Hershner dead at the crash site.

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Steve Bayless, of the Harvey County Coroner’s Office, fills out paperwork after the body of the helicopter pilot had been extracted from the wreckage and removed from the field Sunday afternoon.

KHP Trooper B.D. Gardner said there were no witnesses of the actual crash.

Gardner said the KHP is required by state law to help begin investigations of all aircraft crashes.

The investigation being conducted by the FAA and NTSB would take a few days, Gardner said.

The Sunflower Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves McPherson and Marion Counties, was on hand to give water and food to emergency personnel. Representatives Amy Johnson and Ken Armbrust set up a table with beverages and doughnuts for workers to have.

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Ken Armbrust, of the Sunflower Chapter of the American Red Cross, sets up a table to put drinks and food on for emergency personnel working the helicopter crash Sunday afternoon.

Local resident Don Hazelton helped by hauling workers from the road to the crash site and back via his ATV.

The helicopter was reportedly a Bell 206 registered to Hillcrest Aircraft Company out of Lewiston, Idaho.

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McPherson County and Moundridge emergency personnel unload the body of the deceased helicopter pilot Sunday afternoon.

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My name is Todd Vogts. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm an author and journalist. Visit my website at www.toddvogts.com and follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/toddvogts.

41 Comments

  1. This is my uncle. Thank you to all that helped with this incident. If you do a little research on Roger you will see that he was an extraordinary man and has a very interesting history as a helicopter pilot. Again, please thank everyone that helped him on the scene, he is going to be missed by many people both friends and family. He was a one of a kind man.

    • My thoughts and prayers go out to you. Roger and I had not been in touch for years. I worked at UNMH while he flew the helicopter for the hospital. he was a dear man who touched everyone he came in contact with. Roger and I spent some time together outside of work and he showed me how beautiful life is.

  2. I flew with your Uncle for the last two years at the Abingdon Helibase and he was a very unique man and an excellent pilot. I am so sorry and he will be greatly missed. My dearest sympathy to you and the family.

  3. We knew Roger for over 20 years. He was an extraordinary pilot, and genuine all around good guy. When I got the call from his sister this morning, my world fell apart. I know that if there was any way that Roger could have kept that helicopter in the sky, he would have. Something happened that he simply could not recover from. I cherish the memory of flying with Roger in that Bell 214 years ago. I will never forget his sense of humor, I feel I’ve lost my best friend. Vaya con dios, Roger.

  4. We all loved Roger at Hillcrest in Lewiston, Idaho. He will be missed forever. I will always remember his gentle, humorous wonderful outlook about life. I agree that if there was anything he could have done to save this helicopter and himself ……he would have! He was very smart and talented writer, piano player to name a few with a very deep soul. Helicopter pilot for 37 years with lots of experiences and stories to share. ” Bless His Soul “

    • Sorry to bother you, I’m looking for the Cindy Wilson that was assigned to the 56th Aviation Company. Are you her?

      If so, could you please send me an email at mathew@satx.rr.com
      you are related to my wife Shannon Mason, and she has asked me to try to find you.

      Thank you,
      Mathew

  5. I flew with Roger out of Santa Fe. He was a great pilot, brilliant mechanic, and a great man to tell a story and spend time with. He was well known within the fire community and will be missed…

  6. Roger flew with Matt and I in New Mexico and he was an exceptional pilot and good friend. His exploits in the helicopter industry will be long remembered, from pulling wire for power companies with a 530F to his trip down to mexico in the seventies to break a guy out of prison. He was an excellent firefighter and pilot and indeed, he will be sorely missed.

  7. My sincerest sympathy goes out to Holly, Roger’s family and all the folks at Hillcrest. I got a deep sinking feeling in my stomach when I got the call yesterday about Roger. Many of my friends have died in helicopters over the years and I am sad that I have lost yet another. It was always one of the highlights of the season when Roger gathered us around to tell his stories. We will all miss you.

  8. I had the great pleasure of getting to know Roger via his neighbors on Lost Mountain. While many of his contemporaries called it quits in aviation, he kept going because he loved to fly. My deepest sympathies to Holly and his family. The previous posters are right. He was a one of a kind man that had the greatest bunch of stories that would keep you in stitches with laughter or on the edge of your seat with anticipation. My only regret is we never got to fly together. I could live three lifetimes and never meet another guy like you Roger. See you on the other side ! CAVU

  9. So sorry to hear of our loss. He will be greatly missed. our heart goes out to all his family and friends.
    Gary and Shirley Baron
    Lk. Stevens, Wa.

  10. This is Roger’s Grandson, It really saddens me that this happened, he was always the one i could talk to and he also taught me howto read better then my teachers i will gravely miss him.

  11. I have known Roger for 25 years, most of my life. One of my fondest memories is of him landing a helicopter in our front pasture and taking all of us kids for a ride. It was absolutely incredible. Beside that I just loved him like a father. He was a very inspirational and happy man. He loved his family and friends like no one else could. His spirit will live on in all of us that he touched. I still don’t think that it has completely sunk in that he is gone……I was with his wife the day after the accident happened and I don’t think is has with her either. That is going to be a horrible realization.

  12. Yet another old friend gone. I’ve known and flown with Roger on fire contracts from Shelton WA. to Galena AK. over 25 years. As has been said many times over, he was an excellent pilot and something beyond his control went terribly wrong. I’ll choose to remember he and I sharing war stories as evening came along the Yukon River.

  13. I met Roger in 1965 when he was stationed in Munich, Germany. We became good friends, went to motorcycle races, museums, and enjoyed learning about the German culture. Although after moving to the states in 1968 we lost touch, I have never forgotten his friendship and what a great person he was. I was shocked to turn on the late news Sunday night and hear his name and the tragic accident he was involved in. I am amazed that I actually only lived about 2 hours from him in the same state. My deepest condolences to his wife and family. My husband and I will attend his memorial this Saturday.

  14. My wife and I have known Roger for about 20 years. I have had the pleasure of being his crew chief on many occasions. What a great guy to work with, and a really good friend. An excellent pilot and a great story teller! You will be sadly missed by all that knew you.
    To his wife Holly and his daughter Holly, our depest sympathy for your tragic loss. I will do my best to attend the service on Saturday.

  15. Roger was an amazing man, I had the peasure of seeing him the Friday before, he came to our house for his first layover on his crosscountry tour to Virginia, Roger always tried to come and see me and Matt whenvever he could. He was my stepdad for 16 years, and could not of been closer to a father and a friend to me and my husband. Our 10 week old twin boys had the opportunity to meet their granddad. I will share stories of Roger to them for many many years. I was shocked and still am that he is gone from here, but I know that he died doing what he loved and what he did best. He was loved by so many and could make friends with anyone. His daughter Holly and my mom Holly were so lucky to be loved by such an extrordiany man. He will be missed, but never forgotton….
    RIP
    Ava-Honey

  16. I am extremely sorry to hear about what happened. I flew with Roger in the 1990’s when he worked a contract on the Inyo NF. I still remember the first time he told us the story about the breakout. Still amazing. Great pilot & human being.

  17. I flew helitack with Roger out of Shelton WA in 1982. He was a gentleman and a gentle man with great love and passion for his family, flying and his friends. He had a great sense of humor and a peaceful soul. My condolences to his family. Rest in Peace Roger.
    Mimi

  18. I flew with Roger for a little over 2 years on Maui with the Maui Fire Department Rescue Squad, he was an awesome pilot and had touched many lives, I really enjoyed his company he always had great stories to tell, he was a wonderful man and he will be missed dearly.

    **ALOHA ROGER**

  19. I love Roger with all my heart. He is a phenomenal man! He is my second dad. Thank you for sharing, Holly. Yes, he did have the best stories…they were captivating and lovely…so many stories…I sure would love to hear about Mexico again. I honor him. ~ laura

    • Laura;
      I am a friend of Marlin Johnson…who is trying to get in touch with Holly Bliss..an previous Girl friend. If you could send a return e-mail with some sort of contact info. We are in Sacramento, California…and he I would imagine he is trying to catch-up. Thanks. Jack

  20. My name is Tim Blaylock. I am the Assistant Fire Chief for the Moundridge Fire Department. So often we run calls in our district and we never really know who we are working with or anything about their lives. I personally was saddened at the loss of life. I always am in tragedies such as this. After reading the comments and posts about this extraordinary individual, I am both saddened more and set at ease with the situation. These types of calls are not only difficult for the families and friends of victims but are also hard for Emergency workers. I did not know Mr Hershner, But I feel as if he was doing what he loved in his passing. At the scene of the accident we learned of his affiliation with the Fire Service and some about his family and this knowledge hung heavy in our hearts. I would like to extend sympathys from all members of The Moundridge Fire Department to the family and friends of Mr. Hershner. It sounds like the world was a better place with him in it, doing the job that he must have loved.

  21. Stephan and all of Roger’s grandchildren read on.

    Roger Hershner was many things to many people. To FSR crew #10, their families and the Olympic National Forest he was a hero! Roger Hershner was a grand story teller. This is a story about him.
    “All in a day’s work”
    Chimney Fire-1981
    There are some things that firefighters never forget, the smell of wood smoke, the sound a crown fire makes, or the distinctive sound a Hughes 500 helicopter makes. Another thing that is never forgotten is the long lasting friendships and a sense of “family” that is forged sharing those kinds of experiences together.
    28 years ago, not too far from Sequim, Roger unselfishly put himself in harm’s way to save the lives of 15 of my friends and coworkers. He would humbly tell you it was “all in a day’s work”. Over the last week I’ve talked to several members of that crew and there is not a doubt in any mind that he saved their lives and they asked that I share this story.
    That particular day, September 17, 1981, will not be forgotten by any of us and Rogers’s family and his grandkids will want to know what a wonderful legacy he has left for that fire crew and their families.
    The summer of 1981 was a busy one for FSR crew # 10, they responded to several project fires in Oregon and Washington. The crew was a tight knit, well organized crew and when they weren’t on fires they were involved with prescribed burning on the Shelton Ranger District. Roger was the pilot for the Forest helicopter and knew the Peninsula like few others. His calm demeanor and easy smile made him a hit with his helitak crew, all the firefighters and their supervisors. His skill and ability with a water bucket or slingload was incredibly accurate.
    The Chimney fire was a lightning caused fire located near Chimney Peak above the Enchanted Valley in the Olympic National Park. The fire started in early August and was discovered by our aerial detection fixed wing flight. I talked to the lady that found the fire and she remembers thinking that if Roger and the helitak crew had been dispatched when the fire was first discovered it would have been out in short order. The fire smoked and smoldered for several weeks. Fighting fire on the Olympics is like no other place. Steep slopes, combined with heavy fuel loading and dense canopies make for explosive fire behavior when conditions are right. A crown fire in the Olympics is a rare event. The Chimney fire was one of those rare events.
    The crew loaded in a 20-person bus and left Shelton that September morning at 330 AM arriving at Hurricane ridge at 730 AM. The smoke from the fire was visible but not out of the ordinary. We had several “rookies” with us and the crew organized so that they could be on the first flights in. At 9 AM Roger arrived and started ferrying firefighters in 3 at a time, with a 40 minute turn around. I was with the last load of firefighters at around noon, on a medium helicopter that had come over from Wenatchee.
    I was in back of the helicopter when the helitak foreman shouted back that the helicopter couldn’t land, the helispot had been burnt over! We returned to Hurricane Ridge. The next three hours we could only watch the developing smoke column from a distance. Hearing nothing on the radio I feared the worse for our crew.
    The following is an excerpt from crew boss Gary Larson’s report of those next three hours. “”After the fire overran the helispot I instructed the saw team squad, (Laney and Fitzpatrick), to clear out/dump snags in a small burned over area for a retreat area. Fire did not calm down after making run uphill below the helispot as expected.”(Several of the firefighters recall 300 foot flames and an unbelievable noise as the crown fire raced uphill.) “”Winds were erratic from all directions. Fire was hooking and spotting towards our position. Fire boss called and said he had an escape route to the South of us, uphill and over the ridge. He said he would wait for us on the fireline. Crew abandoned tools and raced south along the fireline. Spotting was occurring below us and intense fire ahead of us. I had doubts about escape route and called the fire boss to reconfirm. He said we could still make it. We came over a small ridge and discovered a finger of fire cutting us off from escape route. I called fire boss and crew retreated swiftly back to the burned over area. Fire was becoming intense below us along our retreat line. I requested a load of retardant along our escape route. Finally we reached the small burned over area. Retardant arrived timely and slowed fire progress. Fire boss suggested we still try to make it over the ridge. Other side was rocky cliffs and spot fires. Squad boss Casey unable to safely scout route as it was too smoky and snags were falling. I heard helicopter N77DJ on the radio on recon and requested his assistance.””
    Roger was the pilot of that helicopter and knew immediately that the crew was in trouble and needed his help. He flew through intense heat, blinding smoke and erratic winds to try to locate the crew without a second thought for his own safety. Flying higher and higher, and being guided by the crew boss’s directions, he finally located them high up on the hillside. He guided the crew downhill to a small clearing. He took command and organized an evacuation of the crew using the Bell 212 helicopter, and a stripped down Hughes 500 that was from the Forks area flying cedar shake bolts. (Two of the firefighters remember running down to the clearing and jumping in to a helicopter with no doors or seats and then holding on for dear life.) How Roger was able to take control of the situation, fly the helicopter and order other helicopters to help, all at the same time, was unbelievable.
    The crew was evacuated to a safe area and I was never so relieved to see them when the rest of my squad was united with the crew later that afternoon. Hugs all around! We spent the night spiked out in a meadow, well away from the fire, not able to sleep, talking about what we all had been through. The next day we were flown back to Hurricane Ridge, drove to Port Angeles and the crew spent the evening with Roger, “debriefing”. I don’t think Roger flew for us the next year, but I know the story was told and retold many times. I stayed in touch with Roger these many years and saw him occasionally. He always took little credit for what he had done that day. Throughout the entire situation Roger was the calm in the eye of a storm. He truly is a hero in all are hearts and will be remembered forever. Thanks for letting me share this story.

    FSR Crew #10 of the Olympic National Forest
    Gary Larson- Crew Boss
    Don Casey- Squad Boss
    Dave Laney-Saw team
    Tom Fitzpatrick-Saw team
    Joe Bentley
    R. Bunch
    Sue Ramsauer
    R. McDonald
    T. Coppolino
    W. Schroeder
    Ken VanBuskirk- Squad Boss
    Rick Saney
    Maxwell
    Pat Grover
    Kitty Dorling
    L. Williams
    Dave Watterson
    Lance Bailey
    T Junso
    Tom Hoke

  22. March 16,2009
    Bud Bliss is Holly’s brother, We were thankful to have known Roger. The outpouring of stories on how he helped so many people and his exploits told by his friends and co-workers at his memorial was truly amazing.
    Roger will truly be missed.
    Karin

  23. Oh, the hole that appeared in the universe the day I was told that Roger had left us! The immpossible had happened! How could it be that the Master of his craft didn’t escape a helicopter crash? I remember a story Roger had told about a long-line twang that had caused the line to wrap around an object that wasn’t going anywhere and stopped the Hughes 500 he was flying dead in it’s tracks. He took a tumble in it’s egg shaped fuselage, suffered two broken ankles from pressing so hard on the pedals, then dragged himself up the mountain to the road above!
    This man was the most courageous, heroic, positive person I’ve known, with a passion for life I’ve not seen duplicated.

    My heart goes out fully to Holly Bliss (wife) and Holly Alling (daughter) and to all the rest of Roger’s family who so graciously allowed those of us who knew him to come together and share stories on Saturday. Thank you for the opportunity to get to know Roger a little bit better through the experiences of others. For this I am eternally grateful. It’s now, for me, as if through the coming together and sharing, that a web is being formed across that gaping hole in the universe. It will never be fully enclosed, for only Roger filled that space, but our memories shared keeps him alive in our hearts.

    Thank you Roger for your inspiration. It’s been an honor and a God given blessing to have walked this Earth the same time as you and to have gotten to know you the brief time you were here. It’s hard to believe it’s been over twenty years since we were fighting fire together on the Lassen! May the Peace that passes understanding envelope you and your family forever.

  24. I’ve known Roger for about 18 years and had the privilege of flying with him while fighting fires for the State of California.
    He was an extraordinary person, with so much knowledge and kindness ready to share with others. I am very fortunate to have known him and have called him my friend.
    He was an excellent pilot and everyone enjoyed his flying specially since he’d share his skills with whoever was next to him during the flight.
    To remember him as a friend and pilot, please take a moment and go to YouTube and search: C-406 UH-1F and you can share a moment with him while doing what he loved.
    We will miss you, Roger…the sky is all yours!

  25. Once again as I read all the posts here for Roger I am saddened. If any of his family is still reading these posts, please contact me via my e-mail address. It was with great honor that I was able to say a few words at Roger’s service last weekend.
    I have had thoughts and feelings rattling around inside of me since then and they finally surfaced in the form of a poem that I’d like to share with everyone. Anyone with contact information for either of the Holly’s or any other family members, please contact me, as I would like to send them a nicer copy of this poem if they would care to have one.
    The poem goes as follows:
    Ode to my Lost Pilot’s
    To friends I’ve lost while fightin’ fires.
    Or flyin’ up amognst the wires.
    Among the trees and wires you dart.
    You did your job with grace and art.
    You made this world a better place.
    Your stories, jokes and smilin’ face.
    It saddens me that we must part.
    Your names are etched upon my heart.
    And even though I miss you so.
    Apparently, ’twas time for you to go.
    Although you’re now beneath the sod.
    For eternity, you’ll fly for God.

    Respectfully,
    Craig H. Brown

  26. So sorry to hear this sad news about Roger, he was a frend at Lexington Hign School, my sympathy goes out to his frends and family. It sounds like he had a wonderful life and family.
    Sheila

  27. I was saddened to here of the death of Roger, my sympathy to his family.
    I rode many a day on the skid with Roger doing powerline construction.
    What a great person and pilot. I had not talked to Roger in years but I know he will be missed by all.
    From everyone at Winco
    RIP
    Respectfully,
    Mike Duren

  28. Please leave your thoughts and memories on the blog I made in memory of my Dad. I would love to collect as many as possible. Thank you to those who have already posted on this website too. I know my Dad was loved by many and thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

  29. ALOHA ROGER, I HAD THE PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH ROGER IN RIO VISTA CA, TEN YERS AGO. HE WAS AWSOME, HE LANDED US SAFELY UPON MANY TOWERS AND LANDED US TONS OF STEEL WITH THE UTMOST FINESSE. TOWER AFTER TOWER ON AND OFF THE SKID LOAD AFTER LOAD ROGER MADE ME FEEL SAFE DOING MY JOB. FROM LANDING THE 500 AT THE RV PARK IN RIO VISTA FOR A BON FIRE TO DIPPING US IN THE RESERVOIR TO COOL US DOWN, CLASSIC. FROM THE BROTHERS OF THE I.B.E.W. LOCAL 1245 , WE WILL SEE YOU ON THE BIG JOB. F.I.P. ROGER YOU THE MAN!

  30. While at the Lassen Hotshot 35th reunion I heard that Roger had died in this crash. It shocked me and was placed in that part of my heart where all the others we’ve lost stay…
    We worked together on Chester Helitack( H-510) on the Lassen National Forest for at least three years (87,88,89 90 I think), if not more! We did many many fires together and he was an exceptional pilot and man! Roger visited me and my family after we left Chester several times and it was always a pleasure! My heart and love goes out to Holly B and Holly A, and to all his family and friends.
    I also want to share that Roger was lots of fun and played with us as we relaxed from a days work of flying and fighting fires. His ability with a bucket has not been exceeded in years since we worked together. I continue to go out as a Helicopter Manager (CWN) and have come across so fine pilots, but Roger was as close to a ’10” as I’ve seen.
    Peace

  31. I read the story about Kaplan in a book I had as a birthday present around 5 years ago, and I still think it has been the best b-day present ever. No doubt he was an amazing pilot.

    God bless him and his family and friends…

  32. I had the great honor of working with Roger in 2003 on the Angeles Helitack. I have even a greater honor of saying I knew him. I had a chance to hear so many great stories, along with words of such a wise man. I am so sad to hear of his death. I no longer work for the Forest Service, but I always reflect on the things I learned, the people I met, the stories that I heard. My heart goes out to his family and close friends, the one thing that I can promise is that his memory will go on in my stories and in my heart, for as long as I live.

  33. I worked with Roger on the Kaibab Helitack in northern Arizona for a couple of summers (when he flew for Aerowest Helicopters in the late 1980’s). I think Roger’s greatest strength was his ability to see the “big” picture; he had a genuine interest in the people he worked with and was a skilled aviator. I had unique experiences with Roger, including hiding a helicopter from the boss once. His passing is hard to accept.

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