Montana Adventist Lay Leader Dies in Firefighting Helicopter Crash

August 25, 2020 | Church | Jay Wintermeyer

Tom Duffy, 40, a firefighting pilot and Seventh-day Adventist lay leader, was killed Monday in a helicopter crash while helping fight a wildfire in the Mount Hood National Forest. 

The Type 1 K-Max helicopter was dropping buckets of water on the White River Fire, burning in rough terrain, when the crash occurred, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Rachel Pawlitz said. There were no other individuals involved in the crash. 

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and the forest service air and ground resources responded immediately to the crash site. No further information about the crash has been released at this time.

“The Adventist community in Bozeman is heartbroken by this tragic loss,” says Elden Ramirez, the Adventist Church president for Montana. “Our love and prayers are with Tom’s family and loved ones. Tom has a long history of dedicated service as an Adventist leader here in Montana and the Northwest and will be deeply missed.” 

Duffy has served on the executive committee — the governing board — of the Adventist Church for Montana as well as for the North Pacific Union, the Adventist Church entity that oversees five states in the Northwest. Additionally, he served on the Adventist board of education in Montana. 

Duffy’s work with and leading in his faith community isn’t a recent development. “Tom was a committed board member,” says Ramirez. “His love of family and God was very evident. Tom was a lay leader who devoted countless hours of his time and energy in faithful service.” 

Duffy, a Bozeman native, attended Mount Ellis Adventist Academy and Montana State University, where he played basketball. In 2001, The Missoulian ran a story featuring his faithful Sabbath observance while playing college basketball.

In the story Duffy said, "Obviously the Lord has always been first in my life, then there's family and friends. But basketball is up there too."

Tom always kept the Lord first in his life even when it meant making significant sacrifices. His personal dedication and commitment will not be forgotten. 

He was a loving husband and father. He is survived by his wife, Robyn, and their three children.