Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/2/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Members included fathers, athletes and students

When a terrible tragedy strikes, survivors try to place a face, story and life behind a name listed online or in the newspaper. When all 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in a wildfire north of Phoenix, one of the worst U.S. fire fatalities on record, friends and family came forward to remember the brave men who died in the line of duty.

Arizona Hotshot 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled.

Arizona Hotshot 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

7/2/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Arizona Hotshots, fire crews, Arizona, wildfire, death

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A high school physical education teacher recalled 29-year-old firefighter Andrew Ashcraft as especially athletically inclined. "He had some athletic ability in him, and he was a go-getter, too. You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active." He's survived by his wife and four children.

Twenty-three-year-old Robert Caldwell was recalled as the smart man in the bunch. "He was really smart. He had a good sense of humor," a coworker said.

His cousin, Grant McKee, also was one of the Hotshots killed Sunday. "Both of these boys were only interested in having a family life. Robert was newly married, and Grant was engaged. They just wanted the house and the dog," their aunt said.

Thirty-one-year-old Travis Carter was known as the strongest one on 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."

A firefighter since he turned 18, 24-year-old Dustin DeFord started as a volunteer in tiny Ekalaka, Montana. His father, the Rev. Steve DeFord, said the outpouring of support there has been unbelievable. "We've got enough food in the house to last a year," he said.

An avid snowboarder, 30-year-old Chris MacKenzie, 30, 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 had followed his father into firefighting.

In addition, 43-year-old 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. Marsh was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died.

Especially troubling are the firefighters who left unfinished business among the living. Twenty-six-year old Sean Misner left behind a wife who is seven months pregnant.

"He played with tremendous heart and desire," Gruendyke said. "He wasn't the biggest or fastest guy on the team, but he played with great emotion and intensity."

Twenty-eight-year-old Scott Norris was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O'Neill Guns. "He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you'd be OK with it," a former customer recalled. "He was just a model of a young, ideal American gentleman."

At 22, Wade Parker had just joined the Hotshots team. Retired Prescott Fire Department Capt. Jeff Knotek, who had known Wade since he was "just a little guy."

"He was another guy who wanted to be a second generation firefighter," Knotek said. "Big, athletic kid who loved it, aggressive, assertive and in great shape."

In his aunt's eyes, 24-year-old John Percin Jr. was, simply, an "amazing young man." Percin was a multisport high school athlete who graduated in 2007 from West Linn High School, southeast of Portland.

Twenty-three-year-old Anthony Rose was one of the youngest victims. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot.

Jesse Steed's former colleagues remember him as a joker. "He was a character. If you look at all the old photos of him, he was doing things to make people laugh," Cooper Carr says, who worked with the 36-year-old Steed in the Hotshots from 2001 to 2003.

"He was good at impressions, and he sang songs; he was just great for morale. He'd just talk in a funny voice and have us all in stitches," Carr said. "And he was strong as an ox."

Back home in Cedar City, Utah, 32-year-old Joe Thurston, 32, used to go to an area reservoir with friends and promptly show how fearless he could be.

"He was definitely one of the daredevil types," longtime friend Scott Goodrich told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We went to Quail (Creek) Reservoir, and we'd be finding 40- to 50-foot cliffs that people would be scared to jump off. He would just show up and be front-flipping off of them." Thurston brought this bold streak to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Known as "Turby" among crew members, 27-year-old Travis Turbyfill got a full-time position with the Hotshots when another member's girlfriend asked him to quit. A trainer said he enjoyed watching Turby with his two daughters.

Growing up in Hemet, California, 25-year-old Billy Warneke was expecting their first child in December. He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had joined the hotshot crew in April, buying a property in Prescott, near where his sister lived, according to newspaper reports.

Full of heart and determination, 28-year-old Clayton Whitted might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach said Whitted was a "wonderful kid" who always had a big smile on his face.

"He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up."

For 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck, 21, 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.

With his flaming red beard, 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger, loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled. We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other's beards," he said. "We also had a few conversations about beer."

Zuppiger's humor was evident on his blog, where he wrote about his grandmother's one-eyed Chihuahua, his "best hair day ever" and a hike with his mother on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. "Garret Zuppiger turns 25!" he wrote in a post several years ago. "Everyday is like a gift!!"


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

Horrific outrage erupts over proposed mosque in Virginia after Paris attacks Watch

Image of The Muslim community in Fredericksburg, Virginia has received support from the local Christian and Jewish clergy.


"Nobody wants your evil cult," declared a man at a zoning meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was lobbing his invective at several American Muslims there over a proposed mosque to be built there. "Every one of you are terrorists. I don't care what you say. ... continue reading

The revealing truth behind the traditional presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon Watch

Image of President Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to use the word


President Obama will pardon two turkeys - named Tom One and Tom Two - from a turkey farm in Modesto California on Thanksgiving Eve as part of an annual presidential tradition. Obama will make a few jokes with his family and then pardon the turkeys to live out ... continue reading

'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis Watch

Image of Despite a shooting at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, the group plans to return to the precinct to continue their protests.


Protesters were standing outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis for Black Lives Matter in the case of 24-year-old Jamar Clark when gunshots rang out. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -Five protesters were shot outside the police station Tuesday afternoon as one ... continue reading

Planned Parenthood sues the State of Texas: Find out why NOW Watch

Image of The complainants maintain that planned intervention of the government is a violation of the federal statute and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection.


Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Texas for blocking its Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood says that the decision was motivated by politics - and not because of health care concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

Terror threats spark shocking WORLD WIDE TRAVEL ALERTS Watch

Image of In either case, travelers can expect beefed-up security at airports in the coming weeks - and longer lines.


It is the start of the holiday season in the United States - and with the world still thoroughly rattled after the attacks in Paris this past November 13, travel alerts are in high effect. Even worse, those who decide to stay home through Thanksgiving and ... continue reading

Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, Catholics nurtured in the Anglican tradition, receives its First Bishop Watch

Image of Fr Randy Sly, a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. The Ordinariate was created by the Vatican on Jan. 1, 2012.On November 24, 2015. Pope Francis announced the appointment of ... continue reading

EVIL AGAINST EVIL: Mafia boss says his group will protect New York City against Islamist State Watch

Image of Now pursuing a screenwriting career, Giovanni Gambino says that following the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, protection is more important than ever.


It is highly ironic, an example of the kettle calling the pot black as it were . Son of New York mob boss Giovanni Gambino is warning the Islamic State that if they decide to take New York City on, they will have the mafia to contend with.  LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Readings for Friday, November 27, 2015
  • Bet you've never seen a space rocket do THIS!
  • St. James Intercisus: Saint of the Day for Friday, November 27, 2015
  • UPDATE: Did the U.S. military actually know they were bombing the ...
  • Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:2-14
2 Daniel said, 'I have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81
75 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills, praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree and indeed every ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2015 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of ... Read More