The following is a press release from the King County Community Council.
At the height of World War II, as Boeing was testing a plane that would become the B-29 Bomber, one prototype crashed into a meat packing plant adjacent to Boeing Field. Thirty-two lives were lost in the crash, one of the fatalities being Luther Dean Bonner, a member of Seattle Fire Department Truck Co. No. 1, who rushed to the scene to try and save lives.
On Sept. 20, the Metropolitan King County Council recognized the sacrifice of Bonner by giving its unanimous support to naming the new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Building under construction at King County International Airport (better known as Boeing Field) in honor of Luther Dean Bonner.
“It is said that real heroes run toward danger, not away from it,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott, the prime sponsor of the legislation. “Luther Dean Bonner put the safety of others before his own, giving his life in an effort to save those in danger. This is just one small way to give thanks to Mr. Bonner, as well as all the others who will serve our community from this building.”
“During the war, Luther Bonner was on the homefront protecting lives through his service as a firefighter,” said Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn. “It is only fitting that the people who share his legacy in keeping people safe be located in a facility bearing his name.”
On Feb. 18, 1943, Bonner and the other members of Truck Co. No. 1 were called to the Frye and Company Meat Packing Plant, where the plane had crashed. In battling the fire, 23-year-old Bonner suffocated inside the plant. The plane’s pilot and 10 members of the flight crew, along with 20 workers inside the plant were also killed in the crash, the 32 deaths being the largest single loss of life by fire in Seattle history.
Bonner’s sacrifice was recognized by the Seattle Fire Department in 2009, and a member of the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Unit inside the King County Sheriff’s Office. The unit is responsible for aircraft rescue firefighting as well as law enforcement, airfield safety and security services at the airport. Recognizing that Bonner lost his life in the line of duty battling an airplane fire, the unit sought to have King County honor his life and work.
“Luther Dean Bonner exemplifies the best of our public service officers,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “When faced with imminent danger, Luther fought to contain the fire and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect others. Although long overdue, this recognition is well deserved.”
“The role of Boeing during WWII helped build the region we know today It’s important to remember our history, and to recognize those who sacrificed,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “By honoring Luther Dean Bonner today we are honoring all our first responders who put themselves at risk every day in the course of doing their jobs.”
The Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Unit will be located in a new facility under construction just south of Boeing Field, and it was recommended during the design phase of the facility that it be named in honor of Luther Dean Bonner. The King County Sheriff, as well as the Seattle Fire Fighters’ Union, testified in support of the designation.
The structure is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. With the adoption of the ordinance, it will be known as the King County International Airport, Luther Dean Bonner Memorial Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station.