Garden honors crash victims

Memorial to celebrate YVMC employees' lives

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— A year and a half after their deaths on a snow-swept Wyoming field, Tim Benway, Jennifer Wells and Dave Linner will be memorialized by a sculpture and flower garden at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Family, friends, coworkers and community members are expected to gather Monday afternoon at the entrance to the hospital's emergency room for a dedication ceremony and reception.

"I hope it serves to honor and recognize the work they did and the sacrifices they made in serving others," YVMC chief executive officer Karl Gills said Friday about the permanent memorial.

Benway, Wells and Linner died Jan. 11, 2005, when their Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crashed in wintry weather near Rawlins Municipal Airport in Rawlins, Wyo. The Steamboat Springs-based crew was en route to Rawlins to transport a car-crash victim to another hospital.

Fellow crew member Tim Baldwin sustained serious injuries but survived the crash. It took rescue workers nearly four hours to find the plane wreckage.

"You don't expect in our line of work -- even though you know the associated risks -- to lose your colleagues," Gills said.

For three people who dedicated their lives to helping others, he said it seemed right to build a memorial in a place frequented by other emergency medical workers and patients.

"We thought that because all the individuals were associated with emergency care, that it was an appropriate place for the memorial," he said.

Laurel Linner, along with other family members of the crash victims, plans to speak at Monday's ceremony. Her and Dave's 2-year-old daughter, Abigail, will be there, too.

"When people come in with an ambulance or are going to work at the ER, they'll all go by it and see it," Linner said about the statue and garden. "It's a symbol to show what we had and what they have done for the patients and the community."

The statue was created by local artist Jim Selbe and his Rollingstone Art Studio. His proposal was selected from among several ideas submitted by local artists commissioned by Nancy Kramer and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Gills said.

The statue depicts a representation of the wings on the pin worn by Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crew members, the six-pointed paramedic star and an eagle in flight, Gills said.

Monday's ceremony, which is open to the public, will be the second event in the past month to honor Benway, Wells and Linner. On May 27, they were recognized at the National EMS Memorial Service in Roanoke, Va. The trio were among 26 EMS workers who were honored this year. Their names were engraved on bronze oak leaves that were added to the permanent Tree of Life memorial. Their families were presented with a medallion, an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol and a white rose symbolizing their undying love.

"It was very solemn, very moving," Gills said about the ceremony, which he attended along with members of the Benway, Wells and Linner families. "(It was) in the vein of the same type of service you'd expect to see for a fallen firefighter or police officer."

Abigail Linner knows little more of her dad than what she sees in the framed picture at his gravesite. After the past month, she'll grow up knowing that he was a hero.

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