Emotional ceremony honors firefighters at Heritage Park

GARDNERVILLE -- An emotional ceremony honoring three firefighters who died in an air tanker crash a year ago was held Tuesday at Heritage Park in Gardnerville.

The firefighters died June 17, 2002, when their C130A air tanker went down while trying to fight the Cannon Fire.

Pilot Wass, 42, crew member Craig LaBare, 36, of Loomis, Calif., and flight engineer Mike Davis, 59, of Bakersfield, Calif., were killed in the Walker, Calif., crash.

Sponsored by the Carson Valley Sertoma, thememorial service included Douglas County Commissioner Bernie Curtis, East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Chief Tod Carlini and family members of the victims.

A monument was unveiled consisting of a boulder to represent the Sierra Nevada, a columnar hornbeam tree that will grow 60 feet to resemble a finger pointing toward the sky, and a bench for quiet reflection.

Mo Draper was also instrumental in getting the Heritage Park memorial in place.

He told anecdotes about the firefighters and said he "jumped at the chance" to participate in creating the memorial. He said it was presented for "appreciation and respect" of the firefighters.

Thomas said the ceremony, "other than being the right thing to do," was something a community like Carson Valley does.

"We recognize people, who have in this case, given the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Mary Lou Meredith, mother of Craig LeBare, said she is thankful for the efforts of the community.

"June 17 will always be an awful day, but I'd just as soon do something when they are honoring my son and the other crew members."

She attended with her husband, Phil, and close friends Tom and Robina Pope of Sand Diego, Calif.

Steve Wass' parents Chet and Janet; sister, Terry Martinez and her children Kyle and Shannon; brother, Jeff, with his wife, Jodi, and children Jakota, Jaden and Jessika; and girlfriend, Colleen Campbell, also attended.

Carson Valley Sertoma members thanked the Garden and Ranch Center for the donation of the tree, Wilson Construction for building the pad, and Leo Mankins for supplying the boulder and Bud Rinasz of BR Construction for placing it.

The trio were also honored Saturday in Walker, Calif., the scene of the fatal crash.

Residents of Walker and Coleville made and sold yellow ribbons to buy a stone monument to the firefighters. The U.S. Forest Service and community organizations also donated to the monument.


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