Tragic news confirms that Matthew Hammer ’08 of Grants Pass, Oregon, died after his firefighting team’s helicopter crashed in a Northern Californian forest on Tuesday, August 5, 2008. The nine fatalities of the crash, including Hammer, were all Oregon firefighters. Four others, including the pilots, were injured. The Oregonian and the Grants Pass Daily Courier have followed the story extensively.
Matt is survived by his new bride of less than two months, Monica Crumley Hammer ’07. Corban’s sympathies go out to all his family and friends. His close friend Rick Kappler ’08 expressed his hope in the Lord, as he told Corban’s Vice-President for Information Services Bryce Bernard and also The Oregonian, “I will see him again.”
Both Matt and Monica earned bachelor’s degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies. Matt was an intramural “big dog,” according to Bernard. “He singlehandedly carried our team to victory in flag football against [our rival] George Fox."
Peter H. King of the Los Angeles Times portrayed Matt through an interaction with Hammer’s employer, 61-year-old Ed Float from Grayback Forestry. In his article on August 10, King wrote:
Stooped shoulders and a faraway gaze testifying to the emotional toll the week had taken, Float stood outside the company's Medford base Friday and tried to make these men come alive for reporters who had gathered in the parking lot.
He spoke in particular of Matt Hammer, a strapping, 23-year-old graduate of a small Christian college who had married his college sweetheart only a month before the crash.
"Matt Hammer," he said, saying the name with reverence. "Matt Hammer was special. Matt called me, he was at a seminary school and said he wanted a job. Typically I want to meet someone before we hire them. I want to look at their hands, see if they can work."
"But as I talked to Matt, I made him an offer right there. There was just something about him. One of his callings was an evangelist minister. I always had him do a morning prayer before we went on to a fire. He wasn't maybe the greatest preacher, but everything he said came from the heart."
Float said Hammer would have been his first choice to deliver a eulogy for the lost crew members. And then he shook his head and said no more.
Undoubtedly, Matt lived passionately, and he will be greatly missed. Bernard says, “Matt was a good student. Everyone loved Matt.” A memorial service was held for Matt at Applegate Christian Fellowship in Ruch, Oregon (near Medford).
If you would like to support the surviving families of the crash victims (officially refered to as 'Iron 44'), you can donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation through the foundation website: www.wffoundation.org. The foundation provides direct financial support to the family members of fallen wildland firefirghters.