Retha Mae Shirley, 19, a wildland firefighter from La Grande, Oregon, employed by Grayback Forestry, Inc., died on June 21 along with co-workers Jacob Brent Martindale, Zachary Zigich, and Daniel Rama. The four were killed when their van crashed on Interstate 70 as they were enroute from LaGrande, Oregon, to the Hayman fire in Colorado. A fifth firefighter, Bartholomew Bailey, died of his injuries three days later. All six other firefighters in the van were also injured.
The crash occurred near the town of Parachute, southwest of Denver, some 27 hours into the firefighters' 30-hour drive. According to witnesses, the van had drifted towards the median when the driver apparently overcorrected and went off the highway, causing it to roll over and land in a ditch.
The firefighters' bodies were flown home to eastern Oregon on a Forest Service plane and received by a color guard. One of the pallbearers was Shirley's boyfriend, Tyson Schoenmoser, also a firefighter, who had been in the eight-vehicle convoy and witnessed the crash. Shirley's funeral was held June 29 in Enterprise.
NETWORKING THE WOMEN OF TODAY'S FIREFIGHTING WORLD, AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO HELP BUILD THE FIRE SERVICE OF THE FUTURE