LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — CO Fire Aviation has identified the air tanker pilot who died in a plane crash while providing nighttime aerial support for the Kruger Rock Fire.
Marc Thor Olson, 59, was the pilot of the air tanker that took off for a first-of-its-kind mission for nighttime firefighting in Colorado on Tuesday night.
The plane took off from Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland just before 6:15 p.m. It circled the area of the Kruger Rock Fire near Estes Park a few times before dropping off the radar, never returning to the airport, according to FlightAware.
“While we are gravely aware of the inherent dangers of aerial fire fighting and the questions that remain; we ask that family and friends be given distance and time to process and heal as we grieve this loss. Your prayers are appreciated during this difficult time,” CO Fire Aviation shared on Facebook. “The Co Fire Aviation family is deeply saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of one of our brothers serving as a tanker pilot.”
Olson talked to FOX31 just before takeoff, confident in the mission because of his background.
“The job requires a certain level of competency and a lot of that is required by the federal agencies we vet under, so we have to have a certain amount of mountain flying experience, a certain amount of either agricultural flying experience or military flying experience,” Olson said.
The company said Olson was a highly decorated veteran of both the U.S. Army and Air Force, with 32 years of service to the country.
During Olson’s 42 years of flight service, he had amassed more than 8,000 total flight hours with 1,000 hours of night vision goggle flight experience including in combat and civilian flight, the company said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.