CPT Van "Terry" T Drake was a VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 10/14/2004 at the age of 61.6 from A/C accident
High Rolls, NM
Flight Class 69-34
Date of Birth 03/15/1943
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with 334 AVN in 70-71
Call sign in Vietnam DRAGON 36
This information was provided by Obituary

More detail on this person: UH-1M helicopter crash

Newspaper article from Alamogordo Daily News, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Beloved balloon pilot passes away By Michael Shinabery/ Staff Writer, Alamogordo Daily News, Oct 15, 2004, 07:46 am

One of the Tularosa Basin's most giving balloon pilots has died.

Terry Drake, 61, was killed at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, on Fort Bliss, southeast of Orogrande. He was flying a routine helicopter proficiency flight, required for pilots to maintain licenses.

Drake was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the crash is unknown.

His wife, Mary Jo, two sons and a daughter survive him.

Drake, of High Rolls, was well-known for also piloting the handicapped-accessible balloon Rainbow's Amigo. His wife owned the balloon. The couple founded their non-profit foundation Fly The Rainbow, Inc., to take Rainbow's Amigo to the disabled. They drove cross-country at their own expense so the disabled could see the world from a new perspective.

"I think we get more pleasure than the people we help," said Drake in 2001, flying tethered flights to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the White Sands Space Harbor.

At the time, Rainbow's Amigo was one of only three balloons nationwide modified to accommodate wheel chairs. The FAA, which regulates balloonists, must approve modifications.

In the balloon's life, by mid-2001 Drake had taken Rainbow's Amigo through 287 flights and, for the handicapped, 125 mostly tethered flights. He also set up to fly tethered rides at the Alamogordo Senior Center.

Drake was a familiar face at the annual White Sands Balloon Invitational, working alongside many including one of the organizers, Ed Brabson.

"There are not many people that you would jump into a foxhole with, but he's one that I would," Brabson said. "He would give his all and expect nothing in return."

"I know the man's going to be missed," said Phil Runnels, who owns Alamogordo radio stations KRSY AM and FM, and KNMZ FM The Stealth. "He did a lot for the community and in the community. Those kind of people are missed by everybody."

"I loved him," said Dwight Harp, a familiar face around the Balloon Invitational, and the Small Business Development Center director. "He was such a quiet and calm and strong man all at the same time. He was confident in himself. Of course you don't get a Distinguished Flying Cross and then be braggadocios, and he was anything but braggadocios. He was so quiet and so calm and so assured and so strong.

"We will miss him."

On Thursday, Drake's Huey UH-1M went down five miles southeast of Orogrande Range Gate, and a half-mile west of US. 54 according to a Fort Bliss press release. Drake was a contracted helicopter pilot for Lockheed Martin, based at Holloman Air Force Base. The incident also injured a coworker who came to Drake's aid. Bonnie L. Bonnell, 38, sustained injuries and was transported to William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. He was treated and released.

Fort Bliss Safety Office personnel have started an investigation and are awaiting the arrival of a formal invstigation team from the U.S. Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala.

"Immediately after the crash, a MEDEVAC helicopter was dispatched from Biggs Army Airfiled. Soldiers and Range Riders from McGregor Range Complex secured the area pending arrival of crash investigators," the release stated.

This information was last updated 05/18/2016

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