Beau W. Sauselein (1948-1981)

A black and white headshot of a Beau W. Sauselein smiling

About Beau W. Sauselein (1948-1981)


Beau William Sauselein was born on March 4, 1948, in Wilmington, Delaware. He graduated from Rising Sun High School and earned an associate’s degree in Animal and Plant Science from the University of Delaware. In 1969, Sauselein enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was a skilled pilot, and after fulfilling his military obligation in 1973, he pursued several pilot certifications, earning the private pilot instrument, multi-engine, and instructor ratings. Sauselein also enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities, especially fishing and sailing. As a result, he was very active in the Titusville Yacht Club and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. In 1974, he began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), serving as a biological technician and law enforcement officer at the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge, which is a part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Sauselein significantly contributed to the dusky seaside sparrow management and helped implement recovery plans at St. Johns and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. He also used his skills to assist the Service as a heavy equipment operator and boat handler. On several occasions, the Service recognized Sauselein's excellence and contributions to the wildlife resource.

Cause of Death

On June 7, 1981, lightning from a thunderstorm started several fires near Ransom Road between the Merritt National Wildlife Refuge and the Kennedy Space Center. By approximately noon on June 8, Service members identified three fires as threats and acted quickly to put out these fires. Sauselein and Scott Jay Maness, another Service employee, worked together as a tractor crew with Sauselein as the tractor operator and Maness as the observer. While they plowed a fireline, the winds shifted direction and pushed the fire towards them. As they tried to escape, their tractor got stuck on a tree stump, forcing them to try to evacuate the area on foot. However, thick brush and palmetto fueled the fire and made it impossible to outrun. In a clearing, Sauselein and Maness shared a fire shelter built for one man and not designed for protection against direct flames. Another Service employee found both Sauselein and Maness badly burned after rain helped stop the fire, and they were rushed to Jess Parrish Memorial Hospital. Maness’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and he succumbed to his injuries on June 8, 1981. Sauselein died shortly afterwards from his own injuries on June 9, 1981. Their deaths led to important changes in the Service’s approach to fire management, which has improved safety measures for all Service members. Furthermore, the Cape Canaveral Space Force Museum lists them on their memorial to cape industrial fatalities, and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge dedicated a memorial to them in 2017.


Key Fields

Born 1948, Died 1981, Age 33, Male, Biological Technician, Law Enforcement Officer, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, Fire, Burns, Pilot, Air Force