Firefighter’s Body Returned to Montana

By Beacon Staff

CUT BANK – The body of a Montana firefighter who was killed when two medical helicopters collided in Arizona over the weekend was returned to Montana on Wednesday.

Michael MacDonald, 26, was fighting wildfires with his Browning-based hot shot crew when he was bitten by an insect Friday. He was killed Sunday in the helicopter crash as he was being transported to a hospital in Flagstaff, Ariz., to be treated for anaphylactic shock — a life-threatening allergic reaction. He was one of six people killed in the crash.

“This guy was outstanding,” said Lyle St. Goddard, supervisor of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots. “He was so happy to be doing what he was doing. So this is a hard time for us.”

MacDonald, a soon-to-be father, joined the 20-member crew four years ago. The group was dispatched to Arizona on June 19 and had been working on the Walla Valley fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

MacDonald, who grew up in Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, was the first member of his group to die in the line of duty. His body was returned to Montana on a U.S. Forest Service smokejumpers’ airplane.