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Deliberations Continue In Tanker Pilot Deaths

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A jury has resumed deliberating in Ukiah today in the case of two men charged with murder for starting a forest fire blamed for the deaths of two air tanker pilots.

Richard Mortensen of Placerville and Frank Brady of Redwood Valley are accused of starting the fire while making methamphetamine.

Prosecutors say that fire led to the August 2001 deaths of Larry Groff of Windsor and Lars Stratte of Redding as they fought a 242-acre fire west of Hopland. They died when their planes collided.

Prosecutors are seeking a murder conviction. Defense attorney William Pinkus said the pair could be found guilty only if they could have foreseen what could happen as a result of their activities. Judge Jeffrey Tauber instructed the jury that they may find Brady and Mortensen guilty even if they believe there was more than one cause for the pilots´ deaths – including their own errors.