Helicopter crash saddens town near Army base
Residents living outside Rainier, Thurston County, are used to the boom of artillery and roar of aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. They were saddened to learn about Monday night's deaths of four Army aviators in an accident involving two helicopters from the base.
The News Tribune
RAINIER, Thurston County — When Don Norton hears helicopters overhead, he sometimes drives a short distance to watch soldiers parachute out of the twin-rotored Chinook helicopters onto the training grounds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He calls the military "good neighbors."
For Norton and other residents living outside this town south of the military installation, the boom of artillery and roar of aircraft is as unremarkable as the tall evergreens and small farms that surround these vast grounds.
"It's very normal," he said.
Norton was saddened to learn about Monday night's deaths of four Army aviators about two miles from his home. When he heard the news on television, his thoughts leaped to the loved ones left behind.
"I feel sad for the families because I lost a grandson in Iraq. ... This is Christmas, and I'm sure they had children."
Army Sgt. Justin Norton, 21, who grew up in Rainier, died in June 2006. His death reverberated through this close-knit community of 1,700. He was the son of Jeff Norton, a Thurston County sheriff's deputy, and stepson of Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.
More than a year later, the city dedicated a veterans memorial between Highway 510 and a popular biking and walking trail.
Beverly Conway and her husband raise quarter horses on a 10-acre farm on Military Road, located off Rainier Road about two miles south of the crash site.
Conway said she waves to the airplanes and helicopters flying overhead and watches paratroopers float to the ground.
"My grandkids always count them when they jump out," she said.
She said she always knows when a unit is headed to war because the number of flyovers increases.
Conway was taken aback when she learned the crash occurred close to her home and thought about the timing of the loss during the holidays.
"You know they've got families somewhere," she said.
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog