SJ Memorial for CAL FIRE pilot killed in line of duty

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This undated photo provided by DynCorp International shows pilot Geoffrey "Craig" Hunt who was killed Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, while fighting the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite.

A small memorial was held Friday for Geoffrey "Craig" Hunt, the pilot who died in the CAL FIRE air tanker crash near Yosemite on Tuesday. Hunt was a contracted pilot for CAL FIRE.

The service for the 62-year-old from San Jose was private. Hunt's family plans to have a larger service at a later date. He will be cremated and his ashes will be flown to a cemetery near his grandfather's farm in Indiana.

"My father was a true hero and it's a very, very sad day," said Hunt's daughter Sara Lauterbach.

The procession started at the Coroner's office in Modesto. The hearse carrying his body was followed by a fire engine and a CAL FIRE chief's vehicle. When it arrived in San Jose, a motorcycle unit escorted the convoy to the Lima-Campagna funeral home.

Across the street, San Jose firefighters had raised the American flag from aerial ladder trucks -- a sign of respect for a fallen brother.

"This is just one more reminder of the ultimate sacrifice firefighters that some firefighters have to pay and really the risk that comes with the profession we chose to do," said San Jose Battalion Chief Jose Luis Guerrero.

Hunt was flying a retardant dropping air tanker on Tuesday, while battling a wildfire near Yosemite. The plane hit the side of the valley's granite wall and burst into flames, engulfing the ridge in fire and smoke.

CAL FIRE Captain Richard Cordova recounted just how dangerous piloting an air tanker can be.

"Some of the maneuvers that they do, they're truly amazing heroes to our department," said Cordova.

Search teams recovered and brought Hunt's body back over steep and rocky terrain Wednesday morning. A ceremony was held in the field before his remains draped in an American flag, were transported to Modesto.

A CAL FIRE honor guard brought the casket inside the funeral home for the short service.

Hunt was a Navy pilot who battled wildfires after he left the service. He was a chemistry teacher during the off season, but his first love was flying.

"The adrenalin was what kept him going. He loved his job so much. I know he loved what he did and he died doing what he loved doing," said Lauterbach.

Hunt would have been a grandpa in January. Lauterbach is expecting a baby girl, who in her words,"will have a best friend in heaven for the rest of her life."

Related Topics:
wildfireforest firefirefightersfirefighter killedevacuationcal firecrashfirefire deathairplaneYosemite National ParkSan Jose
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