BOISE — Legislation prompted by the deaths of three Idaho Army National Guard pilots killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise last year has headed to a sold-out crowd Friday.
The House Education Committee voted to approve the measure that would change the law to make spouses and children of Idaho military or public safety officers killed during training eligible for college scholarships.
The Idaho Armed Forces and Public Safety Officers Scholarship is currently only available to survivors of those imprisoned, missing, killed, or permanently disabled in the line of duty.
Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias’ bill would change that so the spouses and eight children of guards killed in the February 2021 Black Hawk crash near Boise would be eligible.
“A little over a year ago, we lost three soldiers during a routine Black Hawk training exercise,” said Mathias, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. “I was told that with the law currently being drafted, they would not be eligible” for the scholarship.
Idaho law was originally written during the Vietnam War era.
“It would make sense for the fight and the fight pass to be at the top of everyone’s mind,” Mathias said. “But we omitted those that might fall in the training drills.”
No one spoke against the bill.
The Idaho National Guard said the 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 were on their way back to Gowen Field Air National Guard Base at Boise Airport when the crash happened south of Lucky Peak.
Scholars receive free tuition and campus life, including room and board at public colleges and universities in Idaho, plus $500 per semester for books, according to the Board of Education of the state of Idaho.
The state board previously said 27 students had received scholarships over the past six years at a cost of just under $1 million. Each scholarship is valid for up to eight semesters of study, enough to complete a four-year degree.
Jesse Anderson, 43, George Geoffrey “Geoff” Laubhan, 39, and Matthew Peltzer, 40, were killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash. All three lived in southwestern Idaho.