Sierra activist dies in helicopter fall during pot cleanup

September 13, 2013 4:47:41 PM PDT
The man behind a huge volunteer effort to keep Valley forests clean died in a fall from a helicopter as his team went to clean up after one last marijuana growing operation.

Shane Krogen founded the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew in 1998 and grew it into a group of more than 800 volunteers. The 57-year-old was working with his crew when he died yesterday.

Krogen was one of a kind.His passion for his work, for nature, and our forests were so strong he couldn't help but talk about it and fill everyone around him with the same passion. His life may have ended, but his life's work will live forever.

The view makes it easy to understand Shane Krogen's love of the Central Valley's forests. From 7,000 feet above sea level, Krogen saw nature at its best. But between the redwoods and manzanitas, he saw the worst man could do to it. Illegal marijuana growers left behind dangerous chemicals and other trash.

Krogen didn't stand by and let his view be ruined.

"He wanted to be involved," said Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Brandon Smith. "He wanted to help in any shape or form. This was his backyard - sequoia national forest, sierra national forest. He loved it."

Krogen recruited hundreds of helpers to support his mission, a task that earned him honors from Fresno State as a community hero. But when I joined the volunteer trail crew two years ago, their hero wanted none of the credit, deferring to his volunteers and the law enforcement officers who protected them. Smith worked with Krogen over the last several weeks on Operation Pristine.

"He was just always so empathetic towards everybody else and their work ethic," Smith said. "In all reality, he was the man pushing. He was the driving force in a lot of the operations."

Krogen was hard at work on the operation's final task when his mission came to an end. In a remote Tulare County forest, the volunteers were hoisting out of a Pave Hawk helicopter.

"Some of his crew went out of the helicopter first," said Lt. Pat Foy of California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, who was part of the operation. "In fact, one of them was standing next to me when the call came out on the radio that someone had been hurt. And we didn't know exactly what happened."

Krogen had fallen, and even though three emergency medical technicians were with the team, nobody could revive him.But his legacy lives on. Volunteers tell me they plan to work harder to honor his memory.

"We call it in law enforcement a 'force multiplier,'" said Foy. "They were absolutely a force multiplier for us because they go in there and increase our efficiency by double at least every time we go into one of these sites."

Krogen's death is under investigation by three federal agencies. Action News talked to Kroghen's family Friday, but they're deep in mourning. Many will remember Kroghen by his Community Heroes award.

The family has also started a memorial fund. Donations can be made in the name of Shane Krogen at any Bank of the Sierra branch.


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