BOISE – Legislation prompted by the deaths of three Idaho Army National Guard pilots killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise last year was introduced on Tuesday.
The House Education Committee approved a possible hearing for the measure that would change Idaho law to make the spouses and children of military personnel, law enforcement officers and emergency workers killed in training eligible for college scholarships.
The scholarships are currently available only to the spouses and children of those workers who are imprisoned, missing, killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.
Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias said the change could help the spouses and eight children of the guardsmen killed in the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in February 2021 near Boise.
The Idaho National Guard said fog and precipitation caused the helicopter crew to lose visual sight of the ground and surrounding mountainous terrain. Officials said the crew had completed the training mission and was on its way back to the Gowen Field Air National Guard Base at the Boise Airport when the crash happened south of Lucky Peak.
“We lost three soldiers during a routine training exercise,” said Mathias, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. “What made this particularly devastating is not just that it happened, but it’s something that happens so rarely, so infrequently. I think it really hit all of us pretty hard.”
He said he was surprised to learn that under Idaho law, the survivors would not be eligible for Idaho’s Armed Forces and Public Safety Officer Dependent Scholarship. He said that in the last two decades, only one person has been denied the scholarship created in 1972.
The scholarship recipients get free tuition and on-campus living including housing and food at Idaho public colleges and universities plus $500 per semester for books, according to the Idaho State Board of Education.
Mike Keckler, Idaho State Board of Education spokesman, said 27 students received the scholarships over the last six years at a cost of just under $1 million. Each scholarship is good for up to eight semesters of study, enough to earn a four-year degree.
Killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash were 43-year-old Jesse Anderson, 39-year-old George Geoffrey “Geoff” Laubhan and 40-year-old Matthew Peltzer. All three lived in southwestern Idaho.
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