Smokejumper Dies In Idaho Parachuting Accident

A veteran smokejumper died during a parachuting accident in Idaho on Friday. Mark Urban, 40, of Boise, was part of a team of highly skilled federal firefighters.

The group was jumping from a plane about 45 miles east of Boise in an exercise designed to keep up the members' parachuting proficiency.

Reuters reports that the accident was the first of its kind in 13 years involving a Bureau of Land Management smokejumper during a skill drill.

It wasn't known what happened to cause the accident. Bureau spokesman Ken Frederick stated that Urban was the second firefighter to jump from the plane "when something -- we don't know what -- went wrong." Urban is the 33rd US wildland firefighter to die on the job so far this year.

CNN notes that Frederick called Urban "very experienced, a leader in the program and one of the program's main trainers." Urban worked to put together the training program for rookies. An investigation into the accident is expected to start on Sunday.

Smokejumpers are specialized firefighters who parachute into rural areas to help with fire suppression. Their primary mission is to be the first firefighters on the scene for remote fires.

Urban worked with the smokejumpers for 10 years and was based in Boise with 80 other jumpers. The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service have 450 smokejumpers located across the country to help fight wildfires. Urban tailed 324 jumps, including 102 fires, since he joined the Great Basin Smokejumpers in 2003.

Frederick added, "It's tragic. He was a very popular and well-respected member of the crew and everyone has been hit hard by his death." The last accident for the group was in 2000 when an agency jumper died in a jump in Alaska when his parachute malfunctioned.

It's not known what caused the smokejumper to die in Idaho on Friday. However, Frederick stated the agency believes his parachute malfunctioned. Urban was pronounced dead by a paramedic near the group's landing site.

[Image via Eugene Berman / Shutterstock.com]