On Thursday September 16, my parents Robert and Nadine Durham lifted off from their front yard en-route to the Reno Air Races. The last update that I received of their progress was approximately at 12:30 on Thursday afternoon. It is just after this point in their journey that they would land in Bishop, CA to fuel their helicopter and grab a bite to eat.

They would then take off en-route to Truckee, CA where their journey would end. During this last leg of the flight, however, they landed in a meadow near McLaughlin Springs in Mono County for a bit of a pit-stop. Upon taking off from the meadow at approximately 1:30, there were some complications that forced my father to quickly set the helicopter down which would lead to a dynamic roll over and the immediate explosion of the gas tank which enveloped the cockpit in fire.

No longer having a windshield, my father was able to push my mother out and away from the flaming helicopter. After wrestling with his own headset and seat belt he was finally able to free himself. They both were able to roll out the fires that had consumed them from escaping the cockpit, however, they were both severely burned in the process. Quickly analyzing the situation, they both knew that it was best that my mother stay beneath the trees and away from the sun due to her severe condition.

After covering her with his shirt, my father began to climb down the canyon in search of a road that might have traffic passing through. Realizing that he had, at some point, lost his shoes, he was left with only his Hanes socks for the entire climb out of the canyon. Covering nearly eleven miles of country, my father was finally able to find a family camping that was gracious enough to accept him in despite his appearance and the late hour (approximately 9pm). They drove him to the nearest small town that had no working land line and then on until they passed a Benton fire truck. The firefighters were able to radio for a helicopter and my father led them all the way back up the, now freezing, canyon with their lights and sirens blaring. They reached the location of the helicopter's remains and found my mother sitting in the road having heard the sirens and moved away from the warmer area that she had taken to once the temperature had started to drop.

One at a time, the Mono County Paramedics and Care Flight air-vacked  them both to Renown Medical Center in Reno. The trauma center quickly realized that the severe burning on both of my parents was beyond the treatment that they could give and both were stabilized and flown to UMC Las Vegas where they are currently being treated. 

Articles about the incident may be found at:

Helicopter Crash in Mono County
The Record-Courier

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