At the height of WWII, 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. 32 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 September 19, 2016, 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 (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.”
On February 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 (ARFF) Unit inside the King County Sheriff’s Office, the unit responsible for aircraft rescue firefighting as well as law enforcement, airfield safety and security services at the airport.
The Airport’s ARFF station will be located in a new facility under construction on the west side of the airfield. 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.