Senate passes bill to name ridge in Paradise Valley

A bill naming a ridge near Emigrant Peak in honor of Air Force pilots who died there has passed the U.S. Senate.

The B-47 Ridge Designation Act honors the crew of a bomber that crashed in the summer of 1962, killing the four men on board — Capt. Bill Faulconer, Lt. Fred Hixenbaugh, Lt. David Sutton and Lt. Lloyd Sawyers.

The bill would would designate the southwestern arm of Emigrant Peak as B-47 Ridge and allow for placement of a plaque at the crash site where plane debris is still strewn.

Montana’s congressional delegation announced Senate passage of the bill in a joint news release late Wednesday.

“After almost six decades, we are one step closer to getting these brave men, who tragically died in the B-47 bomber crash, the memorial and recognition they deserve,” said Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, said, “Commemorating this ridge in honor of the servicemen who died there will help them live on in our memories for generations to come.”

Rep. Greg Gianforte has introduced the bill in the House.

“Their sacrifice will be honored and remembered forever with the naming of this ridge,” said Gianforte in the release.

“I appreciate Sens. Daines and Tester getting this bill through the Senate and I’ll continue working to move it forward in the House.”

On July 23, 1962, the B-47 bomber left Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas, for a training mission through Montana. The plane flew over southwestern Montana before hitting the southwestern slope of Emigrant Peak. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

In 2016, Bryan Wells, a nearby resident, organized a ceremony and built a memorial at the Old Chico Cemetery to honor the four men. Several relatives of the men attended the event, as did Daines.

Montana’s congressional delegation first introduced a bill to name the ridge in June 2018, but it failed to gain traction.

They reintroduced it in February 2019. The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee heard the bill in May at which time Daines urged lawmakers to bring it to the full Senate. The committee voted to advance the bill in December and it passed on Wednesday.