Brendan McDonough, Sole Survivor of Firefighting Crew, Was "Remorseful" After 2010 Conviction for Stolen Property

Categories: News
mcdonough-large.jpg
Prescott Fire Department via ABC News
Brendan McDonough, sole survivor of a firefighting disaster that killed 19 of his team members.


Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of a fire disaster that killed 19 Arizona firefighters, had sincere remorse in a 2010 vehicle-burglary case, according to a probation officer's report.

The pre-sentence report depicts a motivated, young father-to-be who deserved a second chance after a crucial lapse in judgment and who fretted that his felony conviction might ruin his chance to become a full-time firefighter.

See also:
-Yarnell Hill Fire 8 Percent Contained; Westboro Creeps No-Show at Firefighter Vigil
-Granite Mountain Hotshots: How 19 Firefighters Died Battling the Yarnell Hill Fire


McDonough, who at 21 was an experienced team member and fire-science student, was acting as fire spotter on Sunday evening with the Granite Mountain Hotshots just before the tragedy. This was his third season with the team.

From his vantage point on a hill, he read the environmental conditions and watched the fire line move closer. When it reached a certain point, he radioed the crew that he was relocating to a new position. Officials said McDonough looked back as he hiked and saw his previous position overrun by flames. He never heard from his crewmates again.

Officials released McDonough's name on Tuesday after having earlier stated that one crew member had survived the incident. McDonough showed up at a vigil Tuesday night in Prescott for the deceased crew members but didn't talk to the news media. He passed word through his supervisors that he wanted privacy.

"He is very distraught, as you might think," Wade Ward, Prescott Fire Department spokesman, told USA Today. "He is very emotional. He's got all the questions, the why and the why not. He's concerned for the families mostly. I can tell you Brendan has no desire to speak to anybody at this point."

McDonough was born in Lancaster, California, and was the second of two sons in the family, records show.

mcdonough-brendan-mugshot.jpg
Image: Prescott PD, via Daily Courier
Brendan McDonough's mugshot following his 2010 arrest.
His father left the family when McDonough was 1. He's a drug user who's now in prison, McDonough told his probation officer. McDonough barely spoke with him over the years.

McDonough's mother moved the family to San Diego when he was 6, and from there to Prescott when he was 14. After graduating from Prescott High School, where he participated in the Air Force Junior Reserves and in wildfire training, McDonough made a few extra bucks each week by doing construction or landscaping as a day laborer. In 2009, he worked for a while at Nawlins restaurant as a prep cook and busser.

He used pot and alcohol occasionally, getting busted at age 18 for minor consumption of alcohol, but had quit drinking as of 2010 and didn't feel he had any problem with substances. He had recently moved in with his mother at the time of the pre-sentence report and attended Yavapai Community College, working toward a Fire Science degree His girlfriend was expecting a baby that February.

In December 2010, cops arrested McDonough while he was working out at a gym and booked him on three felony counts related to a September vehicle burglary in the parking lot of the Walmart on Gail Gardner Way. At a separate location, cops also nabbed his buddy and former roommate, Seth Taylor.

Prescott detectives had solved the crime after spotting McDonough and his car in a Walmart surveillance video from the day of the burglary, according to a December 29, 2010, story in Prescott's Daily Courier.

McDonough would later tell his probation officer that he just drove the getaway car after Taylor stole a radar detector and GPS unit from the victim's vehicle. He stopped associating with Taylor after that, realizing that he'd fallen in with the "wrong crowd," he told Karyn Stephens, probation officer.

He felt "ashamed" and disappointed in himself after his arrest, McDonough wrote in a defendant's statement.

Stephens found McDonough "honest, polite and remorseful," her report states. "He spoke with regret about the offense he has committed and knows that his actions affected another person's life as well as his own future."

Based on his minimal prior record and "willingness to atone" for the crime, Stephens recommended supervised probation with the option to have his charge reduced to a misdemeanor if everything went well.

In a plea agreement, McDonough pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in stolen property and was sentenced to a term of supervised probation. Court records show he was released early from his probation terms, and the conviction was bumped down to a misdemeanor last year.

Should McDonough decide he wants to continue with a career in firefighting even after what he's been through, there's nothing stopping him.

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218 comments
Deb Drescher
Deb Drescher

Im seriously ill to see this still up.... guess i should start looking into how to officially make a complaint ....

Marco Cruz
Marco Cruz

and youre just another facebook cunt. change your status to that, cockhole.

Jose Capilla
Jose Capilla

I guess I won't be reading your rag anymore. Simply disgusting.

commonsensical123
commonsensical123

Disgraceful.  Pathetic.  Of no value.  Cold.  Lacks morals and ethics.  Inhuman.  Ratings chaser. Cheap shot.  Sheisty.   Disgusting.  Stone caster.  Sickening.  Classless.  Just some words that come to mind when I think of the New Times and their New Low.

plumpeg
plumpeg

Shame on you Ray stern and News Times.  You son of a b*tches!!!  How do you sleep at night for such cold, coldness.  Gross.  What is gained by kicking a horse that is already down?  Lost my respect and want no more of News Times.

jglen
jglen

... wow, what a cheap shot & from one of the best print media az has ever known ... shame on the writer/editor & publisher.  

I hope Brendan and others reading this realize he like most of us, made some mistakes, he owned up to them and was moving forward in life.  On the recent fateful day, he made some very good decisions and is alive because of them.  Time heals all wounds, Mr. McDonough, I pray you have the strength to slog on forward, your team-mates would want that.  We all want that.

Lets also hope the NT does some introspection on this, and also goes 4ward doing better.

Jon Gubernick
Jon Gubernick

E-mail the editor immediately fill there in box with letters of anger and let everyone you know about what bastards this newspaper is. Cal for the termination of this Ray Stern for writing this horrible piece of crap but also his editor for allowing to even be published. Don't just sit back and let this happen. Be a voice and stand up for what you believe in.

R.j. Hayes
R.j. Hayes

Just when I thought the journalistic could not be lower, the PNT limbos under it. Well done, you scum.

golden_kamama
golden_kamama

BE ABSOLUTELY ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES !! HOW YOU COULD YOU AS A HUMAN BEING DO THIS TO THIS YOUNG MAN ?????????????? BE ASHAMED !!!! I CAN NOT BEILIEVE YOU WOULD DO THIS JUST TO SELL PAPERS OR BOOST YOUR RATINGS !! BE ASHAMED !!

Jake Fenton
Jake Fenton

You guys are pathetic. You are PATHETIC.

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

203 comments. Some kind of record?

Bob Lee
Bob Lee

Marco, you're an idiot. Hope that helps.

ohomegrowntato
ohomegrowntato

Jeez, did the Stern story get in the way of everybody's hero worship?! Truth stings. Heroes ain't infallable. I was glad to at least find out something about this mysterious survivor. Everybody else in the media just keeps gushing about how sad this is. We get that already! Tell us what he says happened that day, even if is too upset to be interviewed!

clay0321
clay0321

Oh Yeah... 1 more thing. Did you forget that there are wildlife firefighter crews that are made up of  arizona inmates? No one seems to complain or write articles about them when they are running into the fire to put it out.

clay0321
clay0321

What is the point of running this. Would you have published this if he would have died? Was the Yarnell 19 story not dramatic enough for you?? This is a disgrace. Smearing the name of a someone who risks his life to save others for the sake of a story is wrong. Ray Stern and every editor that approved this piece should be fired. I am never reading the New Times again and they have now lost my advertising contract.

Kyle Lyman
Kyle Lyman

RIP Granite Mountain Shots! Brendan, don't let this type of bs from the media get you down stay strong! Shame on you Phoenix New Times! This is shameful, pathetic journalism!

virgmom1
virgmom1

Why on earth would the New Times sink to such a low?  This young man has been through a tragedy.  He is the lone survivor of ALL of his working peers.  I am more than sure he is feeling about as confused and despondent as he possibly could... no wait, I think you may have taken him to a new level of pain.  Apparently that was your goal as I cannot find, although I did try, any other reason to write such a trashy and despicable article.  The author should be fired and so should the idiot that allowed this piece of garbage to go to print.

ohomegrowntato
ohomegrowntato

This is a story of how a young man had a tough life, went through a rough patch, and apparently turned his life around as a firefighter. Unbunch your panties! I still find it odd that this guy hasn't made a statement.

sinda_smith
sinda_smith

I have loved the investigative reporting of New times over the years. This article, however was pointless and cruel. 

labomberaloca
labomberaloca

What is the relevance of this 'news' to anything? The New Times didn't think that this young man has enough on his plate, and decided to kick a little more dirt in his face?! What the Hell is wrong with. You people?! Pathetic.

Noah Richardson
Noah Richardson

I hope he likes to blog, because I think his career in journalism has ended.

JForbes
JForbes

New times and Ray Stern, your a bunch of low life scum bags. This shit is weak and you're a worthless journalist...classless and uneducated. Go fuck yourself you spineless cunt!

Trevor Hattaway
Trevor Hattaway

Whoever approved this article should be fired! This young man put his life on the line and 19 of his friends died. He asked for privacy! He is not a public figure! You should have honored his request for privacy. Instead you sling mud!

Mindy Power
Mindy Power

Perhaps i am wrong, but from the picture of Ray, New Times may want to do a story on male reporters that may indeed not be male at all. Rayann is perhaps her real name, and that sissy backpack. Cmon Rayann dump the preschool pack, get a real one, load it full of bare essentials and tools and spend a couple weeks with the real workers in the world. No sick leave for blisters.

madabull
madabull

I say we do a background check on Ray Stern and all of the other contributors / editors of the Phoenix New Times. This is just distasteful, trashy, and desperate journalism.

Samantha Lopez
Samantha Lopez

All time low New Times. You should be ashamed but I know you don't have the morals or conscience to do so.

britchey1961
britchey1961

wth does this have to do with anthing..kind of a shitty move for new times ,show some class and respect man..pick on f ing joe not firefighters right now you assholes.btw youve been unliked after 3 yrs dipshits

Jeff Altemus
Jeff Altemus

Phoenix New Times: You "people" are sad.

jeff1124
jeff1124

Whoever runs the "Phoenix New Times"—look scare quotes!—can kiss my lily-white ass. Now we have the answer to "Can anyone make Fox News look good?" Fucking. Assholes.

#ifeel"remorseful"forhavingreadthis"article"

Danny King
Danny King

A completely disgusting article that was either written by an imbecile or crafted by a real writer with the intention of implying some sort of guilt or wrongdoing by this young man that Sunday afternoon. Either way, a terrible piece of journalism that frames the New Times as an irresponsible piece of trash, lower than the worst supermarket tabloid and not even deserving of lining the cage of a 200 pound Cockatoo with terminal diarrhea. If New Times is still free, it's way overpriced.

annadgu
annadgu

What was the point to this story?? I don't see how his 2010 conviction is relevant to what he's going through right now. This story is a low blow and is complete trash!


Jamie Ferrari
Jamie Ferrari

Absolutely uncalled for and disgraceful for New Times to write this article at this time. Sickening and revolting. Have some compassion you trashy gossip rag.

Derrick Yazzie
Derrick Yazzie

Fuck you too Marco...grow some balls and walk the walk...till then shut your mouth boy!

Karen James
Karen James

What is the point of this article? This young man has been though enough and you have to write about his low point in his life. Shame on the New Times for allowing this to be printed. Someone owes this young man apology. He was humble enough at one time to admit his wrongs...maybe the New Times can follow suit and be humble to admit their wrong in printing a useless & pointless article.

Christa Terrasas
Christa Terrasas

Um, who the fuck cares what this guy did back in 2010. This is bs. Its funny how the guy didn't do anything but seeing as he is the only person to survive in his squad people are digging for dirt. Leave the guy alone!

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

Hell yeah! If that bastard doesn't want to talk, beat the FUCK out of him!

jacksontate_001
jacksontate_001

@ohomegrowntato I couldn't agree more. What's up with this guy? I want to know what he saw from his crucial vantage point as spotter.

madabull
madabull

Btw Phoenix New Times, I've been a fan since the 90's. I now consider Charmin a better paper. Heartless...

jacksontate_001
jacksontate_001

@Jamie Ferrari You're just one of the sheep, aren't you.

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