Two SOU students dead

Two Southern Oregon University students were among the seven firefighters killed Tuesday night in the helicopter crash in Northern California. An Ashland High School gradute also was killed.

Edrik Gomez, 19, of Ashland and Scott Charlson, 25, of Phoenix were both communication majors fighting fires during the summer for Grayback Forestry Inc. of Merlin.

"Both of these kids, they are huge loss to the SOU community," said D.L. Richardson, chair of the communication department, who knew both students. "They definitely made this a much better place with their presence. It's just amazing that we've lost two students with one fell swoop like this."

A third victim, David Steele, 19, was also from Ashland.

Gomez, who also majored in political science, would have been a junior. He was a diversity scholar and active with the Latino Student Union on campus. He made the Dean's List during the spring term.

"He was one of the funniest guys I ever met," said student Danny Moffat, who met Gomez two years ago through the Ecology Center of the Siskiyous at SOU. "He just had me in stitches every time I saw him, and at the same time he was also wicked smart and up to date on politics and history. He could have a really in-depth conversation with about world affairs at the same time."

Charlson would have been a senior in the fall. He was a member of the lacrosse team and worked for the sports information department at the university. He was a sports editor for the student newspaper "The Siskiyou," Richardson said, and he wrote sports stories for the Daily Tidings as recently as June.

"We got a lot of positive feedback from people who played for Ashland and watched Ashland sports," Tidings sports editor Joe Zavala said. "His coverage of Ashland High's hockey team was outstanding."

Charlson had a promising career in sports media, said Pete Belcastro, former sports information director with SOU. He worked with Charlson on his writing and announcing for games.

"Scott loved doing the PA," Belcastro said. "He was getting pretty good at it, and he was writing well. ... He was a real helpful guy to me. I enjoyed working with him."

Steele was a 2007 graduate of Ashland High School studying to be a firefighter and emergency medical technician at Central Oregon Community College, his father, Paul Steele, said. He played rugby and varsity football in high school.

"He was always a leader and a quiet guy, a guy who came from a real nice family," said Belcastro, who knew him from Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church and watched him play football throughout high school. "He had a lot of those values that exemplified what Ashland High School and the Grizzlies were all about."

Also missing were: Shawn Blazer, 30, of Medford; Matthew Hammer, 23, of Grants Pass; and Bryan Rich, 29, of Medford. Grayback is withholding the name of the seventh firefighter until the family could be notified. One co-pilot was also missing.

The remaining three firefighters and co-pilot were hospitalized in California.

Southern Oregon University will hold a supportive meeting for members of the campus community who knew Gomez, Charlson and Steele on Monday at 2 p.m. in the Commuter Resource Center in the Stevenson Union.

Steele's mother, Susanne Steele, is also an SOU student and works at the university's Schneider Children's Center.

Services for Steele will be held at Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church. Date and time are to be determined.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

Share This Story