Sept. 29--PRAIRIE -- Mark T. Urban -- known as "a smokejumper's smokejumper" -- died Friday when his parachute malfunctioned during a training jump.
Urban, who was with the Boise-based Great Basin Smokejumpers of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, was completing a proficiency training jump near the Prairie air strip when his parachute failed about 12:30 p.m. Friday, said National Interagency Fire Center spokesman Don Smurthwaite.
Urban was a very skilled parachute instructor and worked a lot with rookies. He was incredibly bright, extremely fit and a leader, said a fellow smokejumper.
"Mark was the kind of smokejumper the rest of us inspired to be," his colleague told Smurthwaite. "He was a quiet man. When Mark said something, we all listened. He set the standard for all smokejumpers"
Urban, originally of East Longmeadow, Mass., had been a BLM smokejumper since 2003. He was the best-liked member of his team, Smurthwaite said.
"It's a somber day," he said. "It's been a double fist to the stomach for the smokejumper community all over the country."
Urban is survived by his wife, Rebecca, his parents and his sister.
A serious accident investigation team is being formed in Boise with experts from across the nation to begin work Sunday. The team will review the incident and learn from the accident to make improvements, said Smurthwaite. The last BLM smokejumper to die from a parachute malfunction was in 2000 in Alaska during a training jump.
Urban is the 33rd wildland firefighter to die this year. Nineteen hotshots died June 30 on Yarnell Hill outside of Prescott, Ariz., marking the highest number of firefighter deaths in one fire in more than 50 years.
In 1994, 34 firefighters died, including 14 on Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs, Colo.
"Our goal is always zero fatalities. So we have work to do," said Smurthwaite.
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