Memorial Plaque Dedicated to Air Tanker Crew

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One year ago today, the crew of air tanker-130 crashed while battling a wildfire in Walker, California. The three crew members all died in that accident.

Today, a plaque was dedicated in their honor at Heritage Park in Gardnerville.

Steve Wass, Craig Labare, and Mike Davis were dropping retardant on a burning field when their tanker's wings came apart and the plane plummeted to the ground.

Much has changed over the past year, as far as air tanker safety, and also in the lives of the victim's families.

David Thomas\Topaz Lake Volunteer Fire Dept.]
"Today we remember that event and dedicate the site in memory of crew 130," said David Thomas of the Topaz Lake Volunteer Fire Department at the plaque dedication today.

For family members of Steve Wass, Craig Labare, and Mike Davis, it's a sad but proud day. They return to Gardnerville - a few miles from where the crew took off exactly a year ago, but never returned.

"It's been tough. This is our old stomping grounds," says Craig's widow Lori. "When we lived up in Kirkwood, it brings up old memories."

Craig spent many years working at a local ski resort. Steve grew up in Gardnerville, and got his pilot's license at the age of 16 at the Minden airport.

Jeff Wass\Steve's Brother]
"The Walker, Carson Valley support has been tremendous," says Steve's brother Jeff. "Seeing the community involvement has kept the family uplifted in the hard days it's been," he says.

But, much has changed over the past year.

Craig's wife has started working and Steve's brother has a new son, Jakota. The families have been able to go on, but not without the love and support of the firefighting family.

"We're all a family when we do this. When we have a loss it's felt in our hearts, " says Mike Dondero of the U.S. Forest Service.

Each of the elements of this memorial tribute has a special meaning . . .

* The park bench faces the airport, where the tanker left to fight the Cannon fire,
* The tree points to the sky - the site of the crew's final battle,
* The granite boulder, a symbol of the Sierra - the men's playground,
* And the bronze plaque tells their story of heroism.

"All of the elements show an appreciation and respect for their sacrifice," said friend Mo Draper.