Relatives Lobby for Death Benefits for Crews Who Fight Fires
Aug. 5, 2004
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Relatives of a Montana pilot killed while fighting a southern Utah wildfire are seeking death and disability benefits for crews that battle the blazes under federal contract.

Wayne Turner, from Big Sandy, Montana, was killed June 17th when his plane crashed after dropping retardant on a complex of fires near St. George.

Because Turner was working for a private contractor, his family is NOT eligible to receive he approximately 260-thousand dollar payment under the Public Safety Officers' Benefits program.

Members of Congress in both houses are sponsoring legislation to retroactively award the death benefit to the families of 89 air tanker pilots killed since 1976 while fighting fires for the federal government, The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week.

Utah Republican representatives Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop are co-sponsoring the House bill, which is languishing. No action has been taken on a Senate version.