Medals were awarded in an emotional ceremony Wednesday to the two survivors of a plane crash near Glacier National Park and the pilot, who authorities say helped free another passenger before he died.
Gov. Judy Martz and Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs presented Montana Medals of Valor to survivor Jodee Hogg, 23, of Billings, Mont., and the widow of pilot Jim Long, 60, of Kalispell, Mont.
The other survivor, Matthew Ramige, 30, of Jackson, Wyo., is recovering from burns at his family’s home in Albany, N.Y., and did not attend. His medal will be presented at a later date.
“We are honoring three individuals for their bravery and also remembering three who lost their lives,” Martz told the several dozen friends, family members and Forest Service employees crowded into the Capitol rotunda.
The plane, with five aboard, was ferrying Forest Service workers into a wilderness area south of Glacier National Park on Sept. 20 when it crashed on a mountain and burst into flames.
Hogg, dressed in a dark suit and hiking shoes, sat with her head bowed for most of the ceremony, but cracked a small smile when presented with her medal and gave a thumbs-up afterward.
“I’m not really a spotlight kind of person, but I’m glad I got” the medal, she said after the ceremony, surrounded by her family.
Hogg suffered burns and a sprained back and foot in the crash, but she walked without a cane Wednesday and said she was recovering well.
Laura Long, the widow of pilot Jim Long, declined to comment after the ceremony.
Brian Bryant, whose 32-year-old wife, Davita, was among those killed, blames the pilot for the crash, and this week criticized Martz’s decision to award Long a medal. Bryant did not attend the ceremony.
Martz did not mention Bryant’s comments Wednesday, but said she and others across the country sympathized with the families who lost loved ones.
Authorities determined that Long, Bryant and Ken Good, a 58-year-old Forest Service worker from Whitefish, Mont., survived the impact but later died of injuries. Hogg and Ramige spent two days hiking out of the woods. The two credited Long with helping free Good before the plane caught fire.