After taking off at 8:30 p.m., a helicopter crashed Sunday in Kenya, killing Kyle Forti, a 2012 graduate of Hillsdale College, and three other Americans.
Forti and the others were flying to the Lobolo tented camp, but they did not make it far before losing contact. A search-and-rescue mission identified the wreckage hours before dawn, according to the Associated Press. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
Forti was a foster parent and a Colorado political strategist who cofounded D/CO Consulting, a campaign consulting digital advertising company, with Caleb Bonham.
“At 9:10 p.m. last night, my phone rang…It was my mom. Little did I know, my life was about to be completely rocked, and I was about to feel every emotion and nothing at all — all at the same time,” Josh Forti, Forti’s brother, wrote in a Facebook post. “She screamed, ‘Kyle’s dead! He’s dead! Kyle is dead! He was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya!!! Your brother is dead.’ Nothing can prepare you for that call. Nothing.”
Friends remember Forti as a dedicated family man, a rising star, and an explorer with unquenchable curiosity.
“I never remember him not smiling, not having something positive to say,” said Sean Duffy, a political consultant in Colorado and a friend of Forti’s. “He wasn’t one of those cats who complain — and in politics, everyone is down about something — but Kyle was a pleasant, enthusiastic, positive guy who wanted to get all he could out of life. Not a lot of people are jumping on helicopters in Kenya at night.”
Forti also made Red Alert Politics “30 under 30” list in 2014 for founding Peak Political Solutions, and he ran one of the largest public relations firms in Colorado, D/CO Consulting, with Bonham.
“Kyle brought a humanity to politics that you rarely see. There is a hardness — an impersonality — in politics, and Kyle refused to let that be him,” Colorado state Sen. Owen Hill said. “Instead, he took that unstoppable energy and brought a real humanity to politics. People across the spectrum were important and fascinating to Kyle simply because they were people.”
Forti is survived by his pregnant wife, Hope Forti, his son Max, and seven siblings.
“Kyle first and foremost loved being with his family. His wife, Hope, and his son, Max, were his world,” Bonham said. “Kyle loved navigating this crazy little thing called life with everyone that entered. He challenged each of us to love our neighbors and asked if our focus should shift from being perceived as a ‘good person’ to being better at being a person.”
As a foster parent, Forti was passionate about improving Colorado’s foster care system.
“For him, I think it came out of the calling of their faith,” Vice President of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University Jeff Hunt said. “And Kyle was strongly motivated to be a good dad. I think it was one of his key passions in life if you looked at the way he treated his son Max. He loved his son deeply; he took him on adventures. I think the love for improving the foster system came out of that deep love as a father.”
Hope and Kyle Forti founded the nonprofit Foster Together Colorado to help foster children and foster parents. He worked to grow his business so that he could afford to spend half of his time at home with his son. He joked about competing with mommy bloggers by starting a boys’ fashion and adventure blog, according to Hope Forti.
“Kyle was not primarily a political strategist or adviser. He was primarily a husband and father,” Hope Forti said. “Today, his friends, Sam and Sam, told me how they noticed Kyle ‘seeing’ our children. He paid beautiful attention to other people.”
After the crash, past foster children came to visit the Fortis.
“The house is filled with past foster kids and other children pressing out the play dough on the table, LEGOs all over the floor, and kids running through the house in every direction,” Ann Forti, Kyle’s mother, posted on Facebook. “It is everything Kyle would want! (Well, he would want the mess picked up and organized at some point.)…Keeping the legacy alive.”
During his time at Hillsdale, Forti joined the Sigma Chi fraternity, served as a student ambassador, and double-majored in political science and Christian studies.
“He’s always been the kind of person people want to be around: relentlessly positive, full of energy,” Taylor Gage, ’10, said. “People gravitated towards him because of his outlook on life, his desire to pursue the truth, and his love for exploring not just ideas but also places.”
Professor of History Brad Birzer and Lecturer of History Dedra Birzer remember Forti for his sense of adventure and for his commitment to his family.
“He was an absolute mainstay in Colorado, a force of nature. Everybody knew him,” Brad Birzer said. “He was always on fire. He’s not the kind of guy who would have faded out of life. I don’t mean to sound insensitive — it’s horrible — but I think his death had to have been as dramatic as his life was. Everything he touched, he changed.”
A GoFundMe fundraiser page has been set up so donations may be sent to the Forti family. Over $100,000 have been raised in two days.