Congress passes bill honoring airmen killed in 1962 crash
By SAM KLOMHAUSLivingston Enterprise
LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — The B-47 Ridge Designation Act, a bill honoring four airmen killed in a 1962 crash on Emigrant Peak, passed the House of Representatives unanimously.
Lt. Fred Hixenbaugh, Capt. Bill Faulconer, Lt. Lloyd Sawyers and Lt. David Sutton died July 23, 1962 during a training mission from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, when the B-47 bomber they were flying crashed into the side of Emigrant Peak.
Emigrant resident Bryan Wells, who has been a big part of raising awareness about the crash site and pushing the bill forward, said the bill’s passage is a great thing for the families of the airmen, and a part of the area’s local history.
“I like the thought that Park County and Montana care about their veterans,” Wells told the Livingston Enterprise.
The bill, which passed on Sept. 21, names the ridge of the crash site “B-47 Ridge” and allows a memorial plaque to be placed at the site.
Wells said he’s especially happy for the victims’ families, who are “wonderful and amazing people.”
Meeting the families and talking to them through this process made Wells realize the sacrifice families make when they lose a loved one.
“It stays with them forever,” Wells said.
Wells thanked Chico Hot Springs, the Park County Environmental Council, the Park County Sheriff’s officer, the Park County Commission the National Park Conservation Council, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and friends and neighbors for helping honor the fallen airmen.
“It was a huge effort, a lot of people helped,” Wells said.
Wells praised Montana’s legislators in Washington, D.C., for working together to get the bill passed.
Wells said he first visited the crash site in 1969, and wondered about it for a long time before receiving a call in 2015 asking for information about the wreck. That prompted him to hike up to the site, and when he got there he thought there should be a plaque so visitors could learn what happened.
In 2016, a memorial was held in Chico for the four airmen. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines was in attendance, and Wells said it seemed like the senator was really affected by the event, which was the start of the legislative push to honor the crash victims.
Daines and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, as well as U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, commended the bill’s passage in a press release sent out by Gianforte’s office.
“In 1962, four brave airmen tragically lost their lives in service to our country, and today, we are one step closer to honoring their legacy,” Gianforte said.
“After years of hard work, we’re now one step away from forever memorializing and honoring the four brave men who tragically died during a routine B-47 mission almost six decades ago in Montana,” Daines said.
“I’m glad to see that the House came together to pass this bipartisan bill ensuring that we honor the brave men whose lives were cut short on that tragic night years ago,” Tester said.
Having already passed the Senate, the bill must now be signed into law by President Donald Trump. Wells said he wasn’t sure when that would be.
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