KEITH RIDLER Associated Press
BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law legislation prompted by the deaths of three Idaho Army National Guard pilots killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise last year.
The Republican governor on Tuesday signed the measure in a private ceremony with the families of those killed in the crash.
The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias changes the law to make the spouses and children of Idaho military personnel or public safety officers killed during training eligible for college scholarships.
Mathias is a US Coast Guard veteran who sought the change after attending a memorial service last year for the pilots who died and finding out the Idaho scholarship didn’t apply to those killed in training.
“It’s important that we make sure that we continue to give back to the military families that have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Mathias said Wednesday. “This scholarship, the freedom scholarship, is a really generous package.”
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Idaho’s Armed Forces and Public Safety Officer Dependent Scholarship was previously only available to survivors of those imprisoned, missing, killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.
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.
The state board has previously said that 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.
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.
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.