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Hotshots killed in Arizona fire remembered, mourned

  • Associated Press
  • Published Monday, July 1, 2013, at 11:57 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 8:32 a.m.

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The others victims

•  Robert Caldwell, 23

•  Dustin Deford, 24

•  GrantMcKee, 21

•  Wade Parker, 22

•  Jesse Steed, 36

•  Joe Thurston, 32

•  Garret Zuppiger, 27

Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001. Following are profiles of some of the dead.

Andrew Ashcraft, 29

Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots and remembered Andrew Ashcraft as a fitness-oriented student.

“He had some athletic ability in him, and he was a go-getter, too.”

Ashcraft left behind a wife, Juliann, and four children.

Travis Carter, 31

At Captain Crossfit, a gym near the firehouse where the Hotshots were stationed, Travis Carter was known as the strongest one of the crew – but also the most humble.

“No one could beat him,” trainer Janine Pereira said. “But the thing about him was he would never brag about it. He would just kill everyone and then go and start helping someone else finish.”

Chris MacKenzie, 30

An avid snowboarder, Chris MacKenzie grew up in California’s San Jacinto Valley, where he was a 2001 graduate of Hemet High School and a former member of the town’s fire department. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 2004, then transferred two years ago to the Prescott Fire Department.

MacKenzie had followed his father into firefighting. He “lived life to the fullest,” longtime friend Dav Fulford-Brown told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Eric Marsh, 43

Eric Marsh was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, N.C., but became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at Arizona State University, said Leanna Racquer, the ex-wife of his cousin.

He was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died.

“He’s was great – he was the best at what he did. He is awesome and well-loved, and they are hurting,” Racquer said of his family.

Sean Misner, 26

Sean Misner leaves behind a wife who is seven months’ pregnant, said Mark Swanitz, principal of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Barbara County, where Misner graduated in 2005.

Misner played varsity football. “He played with tremendous heart and desire,” said retired football coach Ken Gruendyke. “He wasn’t the biggest or fastest guy on the team, but he played with great emotion and intensity.”

Scott Norris, 28

Scott Norris was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O’Neill Guns.

“Here in Arizona, the gun shops are a lot like barbershops. Sometimes you don’t go in there to buy anything at all, you just go to talk,” said resident William O’Hara. “I never heard a dirty word out of the guy. He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you’d be OK with it. He was just a model of a young, ideal American gentleman.”

John Percin Jr., 24

He loved baseball and had an unforgettable laugh. In his aunt’s eyes, John Percin Jr. was, simply, “an amazing young man.”

“He was probably the strongest and bravest young man I have ever met in my life,” Donna Percin Pederson said from her home in Portland, Ore.

Percin was a multisport high school athlete who graduated in 2007 from West Linn High School, southeast of Portland.

Anthony Rose, 23

Anthony Rose grew up in Wisconsin and had worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot.

“He was the kind of guy that his smile lit up the whole room, and everyone would just rally around him,” said retired Crown King firefighter Greg Flores said. “He loved what he was doing, and that brings me some peace of heart.”

Travis Turbyfill, 27

Known as “Turby” among crew members, Travis Turbyfill got a full-time position with the Hotshots when another member’s girlfriend asked him to quit.

Turbyfill would work out in the morning with other Hotshots at Captain Crossfit, a warehouse filled with mats, obstacle courses, climbing walls and acrobatic rings near the firehouse. He would return in the afternoon with his wife and kids.

Tony Burris, a trainer, said he enjoyed watching Turby with his two daughters. “Because he’s this big, huge Marine, Hotshot guy, and he has two little girls, reddish, blonde curly hair, and they just loved their dad,” he said.

Billy Warneke, 25

Billy Warneke and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif.

Warneke grew up in Hemet, Calif., along with fellow Hotshot Chris MacKenzie. He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had joined the Hotshot crew in April.

Kevin Woyjeck, 21

For Kevin Woyjeck, the fire station was a second home. His father, Capt. Joe Woyjeck, is a nearly 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Keith Mora, an inspector with that agency, said Kevin often accompanied his dad to the station and on ride-alongs.

“He wanted to become a firefighter like his dad and hopefully work hand-in-hand,” Mora said Monday.

“He was a great kid. Unbelievable sense of humor, work ethic that was not parallel to many kids I’ve seen at that age. He wanted to work very hard.”

Clayton Whitted, 28

Full of heart and determination, Clayton Whitted might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working.

“He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality,” said his former Prescott High School coach, Lou Beneitone. “When he walked into a room, he could really light it up.”

Beneitone said he ran into Whitted about two months ago and they shook hands, hugged and talked about the upcoming fire season.

“I told him to be careful,” Beneitone said.

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