CRASH VICTIMS IMPROVING

June 27, 2002 11:00 pm

Two wildland firefighters hospitalized following last Friday's fatal accident in Colorado continue to improve.

Russ McCollister of Grayback Forestry Contracting Inc., where the two are employed, said late Thursday that Brandon Fiala, 20, was recovering from surgery for a crushed pelvis. The University Hospital in Salt Lake City said this morning that Fiala is in fair condition and "doing fine."

"He's up and talking and doing real well," McCollister said.

Although the surgery went well, Fiala faces additional surgery, McCollister said. Fiala is from Twin Falls, Idaho.

Anthony Kyle, 32, of La Grande, hospitalized at St. Mary's Regional Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., is "sitting up and may be released in about a week," McCollister said.

"He's coming around pretty well."

The two were among 11 wildland firefighters riding in a van on its way from La Grande to the Hayman Fire south of Denver. The accident occurred on Interstate 70 west of Denver when the driver Megan Helm, 21, of La Grande, overcorrected after the van slid off the road. The van rolled several times, and five people, three from Northeast Oregon, died.

A funeral for Retha Shirley, 19, of La Grande will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Joseph High School, and a service for Bartholomew Bailey, 20, of Baker City will start at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Nazarene in Baker City.

A service for Daniel Rama, 28, was held in Baker City this morning.

A memorial fund has been established through U.S. Bank with the Wildland Fire-Fighter Foundation to help the families of the deceased and injured. Grayback Forestry has contributed $14,000 to the foundation. Donations may be made at any U.S. Bank branch.

— Alice Perry Linker