Paying tribute to fallen tanker crew |

Paying tribute to fallen tanker crew

MORE ONLINE" target="_blank">Text">

On June 17, 2002, Tanker 130 departed the Minden Airport at 2:29 p.m. On board were Capt. Steven Wass, Co-pilot Craig LaBare, and Engineer Mark Davis. Tanker 130, crashed while fighting a Sierra wildfire near Walker, California killing all three on board. The original bronze plaque created by a local stonemason was placed in Pickel meadows commemorating the tragedy. Over the past 17 years, its condition and surround have deteriorated so locals joined together to replace it to keep the memory of these heroes alive.

The tanker captain’s brother Jeff Wass reported that the new marker will be unveiled on Aug. 10, in Pickle Meadows, Walker, Calif. “We have no idea what it will look like,” said Wass “as we left the design completely to the artist’s discretion. We do know, however, that we will not be disappointed with the work and that it is built to last the next 100 years.”

The public is invited to the event at 10 a.m. Aug. 10. It begins at the Antelope Valley Community Center, 442 Mule Deer Road, Coleville, Calif. At 11 a.m. the group heads over to the re-dedication site, Highway 395, (across and diagonal from the “Crafty Needle.”) The Pickel Meadows Color Guard, local Fire Department, and Lions club will be there.

Troy Hickey, a fellow pilot and personal friend of the late Steve Wass, noted a few ironic things about the tragedy. “Steve who was in his 40s had flown as an anchor pilot around the country since the age 18. At the time of the incident, he was on leave visiting his girlfriend when he was summoned to fill in for the originally scheduled pilot,” said Hickey.

The half-century-old aircraft they were flying wasn’t entirely safe. Steven Wass repeatedly had told colleagues, friends and family of his concerns about the structural integrity of the aging C-130A airplanes, especially the wings, according to an 831-page Forest Service accident report.

Hickey poignantly remarked, “Although Steve spent his life traveling and living around the country, he ended back here in the area where he was born.”

Jeff and Jodi Wass’ son Jakota never knew his heroic Uncle Steve but heard many stories about him. Jakota, an extraordinary, self-taught musician at age 12, wrote the song “Heaven Flyer” as a tribute to Steve. Two years later, he had it professionally recorded. To date, it has had over 5,500 views on Youtube. You may hear it and watch an overview of Steve’s life including actual footage of the crash at For questions regarding the new memorial’s unveiling please email

You will have a chance to see Jakota perform live, the night before the re-dedication ceremony at the “Summerfest 2019 Free Concert” in Minden Park 5-9 p.m. Aug. 9. If you’d like to partake of the brats and beer being served that night please call Jodi 450-2826 or Amanda 691-1955 for ticket information.

Contact Anita Kornoff at