Intelligent. Quirky. Compassionate.
These were only a few words that can be used to describe the “funny brother.”
A passion for politics, good humor and Latin American history.
These were only a few topics the “eternal optimist” was interested in.
Anyone who fights for the poor, anybody who fights for social injustice, against tyranny, oppression, against imperialism, against the system.
These were the heroes of the “emerging leader.”
The funny brother, eternal optimist and emerging leader was Edrik Gomez, 19, a Southern Oregon University student who died in a helicopter crash in the summer of 2008.
Gomez was in his first year as a firefighter for Grayback Forestry Inc. when he and 50 other firefighters from the area were called to a fire at an iron complex in California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness.
After a forecast for worsening weather conditions, many firefighters were removed from the scene. A Sikorsky S61-N helicopter was assigned to ferry the firefighters to a safer location, the incident report from the U.S. Fire Administration states. The helicopter had made two trips and refueled before picking up its third load of passengers, which Gomez was aboard. According to the report, the helicopter experienced a loss of power to the main rotor during the initial climb and subsequently crashed. Fire consumed the helicopter, claiming the lives of nine firefighters and two pilots. A pilot and three firefighters were severely injured.
Even though Gomez was only 19 years old when he died, his “compassion for his fellow man” left a lasting impression, said D.L. Richardson, chairman of the communications department at SOU, in a 2008 interview with The Oregonian.
“He was one of those students who would go out… and pour out his heart to help people,” Richardson said. “You could see it in class… he was an insightful student, very dedicated to his studies.”
Gomez’ involvement with Latino Student Union helped to establish him as an emerging leader at SOU.
“I think he was a driving force behind really helping bring the Latino Student Union to the forefront and helping the different groups of the multicultural coalition come together, be a united force and do great things in the community,” Richardson said.
Gomez’ will be remembered for his love of life and his drive to live life the best he could every single day.
Every year, flowers are laid on his memorial bench outside of Britt Hall.
The bright red, orange and yellow flowers underneath the quote summarizing Gomez’ philosophy leave the community with a warm reminder of Edrik Gomez, a student who will never be forgotten.
“Begin each day with a smile. Be true to yourself. Hold family, friends, and your dream close to you. In this you will find freedom, courage and joy.” — Edrik Gomez.