Obit: Van Handel, Heath (1973? - 2009)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Van Handel, Frank

-------Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI.) April 15, 2009

---Van Handel, Heath (1973? - 8 Apr. 2009)

Heath Van Handel, 36, an experienced Wisconsin Department of Natural ReSources (DNR) aircraft pilot, died Wed., April 8, when the aircraft he was piloting crashed during forest fire suppression efforts near the town of Cary in Wood County.

Van Handel, a DNR employee since 2006, was a former commercial pilot and flight instructor at Kansas State University in Salinas, KS.

Van Handel was piloting a Cessna 337, twin-engine aircraft, owned by the state Department of Administration and leased to the DNR. He was responding to a wildfire as an air attack pilot -- a pilot who observes the fire and radios key intelligence on fuel type and fire behavior to fire fighters below.

The crash occurred at 2:26 p.m. The forest fire was contained and controlled. This is the first fatality of a DNR air attack pilot in the line of duty.

The Federal Aeronautics Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified of the incident; the Wood County Sheriff’s Department secured the crash site.

After the crash, Wisconsin DNR secretary Matt Frank issued the following statement:

“The thoughts and prayers of everyone at DNR are with Heath Van Handel’s wife, Jennifer, their children, family and friends during this difficult time. We are deeply saddened over the loss of Heath Van Handel, a colleague and friend to many.”

“Heath Van Handel’s dedication to service and protecting both the citizens, and our natural reSources is at the core of what we are about as public servants and an agency,” said Frank. “He will be missed.”



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