Stories From The Tamaracks:

I Remember When...'

Valle Turner Demmons, daughter of Henry "Heine" and Maude Turner with her firt two youngsters, Ann and Kenneth T. "Sandy". The picture was taken at The Tamaracks around 1940. Years later Ann married Norm Thurnau and they moved to Havre where he managed the Buttrey Store and she worked as a secretary/office manager for a law firm. Today they are retired and live at Kalispell. Sandy became an Air Force pilot and later flew for Continental Airlines within the United States and on the Austrialia-New Zealand routes. He died in the crash of his ultralight at Polson on August 28, 1982. Note both Valle's and Sandy's Texas-style get-up, with trouser legs tucked into their boots. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, Pel Turner's son. (Pel is Valle's younger brother.)

December 28, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Stories From Long Ago About The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake and Surrounding Area Compiled by Jack Demmons. This is Part 16.

The Missoula Sentinel on Saturday, August 6th, 1960 had an article about Sandy Demmons, son of Valle and Ken Demmons who at one time worked at, and managed, The Tamaracks. (They later moved to Missoula and then to Kalispell before returning to Missoula.) "Aviation Cadet Kenneth T. Demmons, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Demmons, Kalispell, has been awarded Air Force silver wings in graduation ceremonies conducted at Reese Air Force Base, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant. The new pilot will receive advanced training in C-130 aircraft at Stewart AFB, Tennessee, prior to assuming flying duties with the Tactical Air Command..." He had joined the Air Force in 1959.

Sandy went on to fly missions in Vietnam, piloting Lockheed turboprop, four-engine C-130 Hercules aircraft. While there, he ran into his cousin Bill Demmons (Jack's brother) in Bangkok, Thailand. Bill was flying for a U. S. government civilian operation in Laos at the time. Sandy later became an instructor-check pilot for the Air Force.

After leaving military service, Sandy flew four-engine McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jet transports for Continental Airlines, on both domestic flights, and the Australia-New Zealand routes, and was based out of Los Angeles. However, he and his wife, Joyce, had purchased property near the Polson golf course and during his time off commuted back home.

One of Sandy's hobbies and enterprises was flying and marketing the Quick Silver brand ultralight aircraft through his newly formed company, Montana Sport Flite. Many considered his hobby a dangerous one, but Sandy said there was "plenty of buffer between what I consider safe and what is really dangerous..." He trained those who bought his product and taught them the "Four W's" - whiskey, wind, where to land and wires. He said, "If you hit a wire, it can ruin your whole day."

He was the subject of a Missoula Outdoors feature on July 22nd, 1982, which included pictures of him flying his ultralight. On the back of his T-shirt were the words: "The ones with the most toys when they die - win."

Crash Kills Polson Pilot

That was the title of an article in the Missoula Sentinel Sunday, August 29, 1982. "Sandy Demmons, a 46 year old commercial airline pilot and ultralight aircraft enthusiast, was killed Saturday when his ultralight hit a power line in downtown Polson..."

Sandy had been practicing touch and go flights on Flathead Lake with his pontoon-equipped ultralight. He was taking off from a point just south of the bridge that leads from Polson towards Kalispell.

Tragically, Sandy died from one of the "W's" he had warned others about. Witnesses watching him take off said there had been a shift of wind, that Sandy had seen the wire and was trying to maneuver away from it, but there wasn't time and he hit a power line that crossed diagonally, 30' above Highway 93. Sandy's plane plummeted out of control and slammed into the paved driveway on the west side of the First Federal Savings & Loan building, and then skidded upside down into a business sign, with his head striking the curb. The impact split Sandy's helmet wide open.

He had planned on making a demonstration flight later that day for crowds who would be gathered for the weekend's Indian Summer Regatta on Flathead River, which included a Saturday night Flathead Lake cruise party and dance on the cruise ship Retta Mary. He had organized the event. [Compiler's note: One week prior to Sandy's tragic death I met with him in Missoula and was invited to take part in the cruise, but was unable to do so. I always had the deepest respect for Sandy. We had more than a few parties together in Missoula through the years.]

Some years earlier in Seeley Lake, Sandy had been one of the first - if not the first - in Montana to be towed aloft behind a motorboat while harnessed to a parachute. He later followed his uncles Pel and Bud Turner of The Tamaracks in learning how to fly.

In an earlier edition of the paper, mention was made of Sandy riding along on his own horse with his dad on pack trips into the South Fork Wilderness area while in grade school, and how he worked as the cook's flunky on some of those trips. Sandy was never one to "sit still."

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