The death of Ian McBeth while fighting fires in Australia left the Great Falls community reeling and wanting to help.
McBeth, a 44-year old Great Falls resident, served as a lieutenant colonel in the Montana Air National Guard. In the civilian world, he was a pilot for Coulson Aviation, an aerial firefighting company hired to help fight the massive wildfires burning in Australia. McBeth was the pilot in command when the C-130 plane crashed in New South Wales. First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. also died in the crash.
McBeth left behind his wife Bowdie and three children: Abigail, Calvin, and Ella.
As the sole provider for his family, his death cost his family both emotionally and financially.
In order to help support the McBeths with immediate financial needs,McKenzie Salotti, a close friend of Ian's wife Bowdie, started a GoFundMe campaign.
“I just felt really bad for Bowdie because I think like any military spouse, that’s your worst fear….I just wanted to be there for her,” Salotti said.
After creating the campaign just several days ago, more than 150 people have donated more than $15,000 for the family.
That money will help support the family during this difficult time and provide a financial base for the McBeth's three children.
“The children are about teenagers and higher education is a priority to them. So it will be used for higher education and immediate needs for the family,” Salotti said.
Salotti believes the community's willingness to give comes from a respect for the man who gave so much to his country.
“He is a servant...he spent his life serving others and he truly did. When he was not here, teaching people to fly airplanes, he was fighting fires, and that obviously took a huge toll on the time his family got to spend with him. I think it's important just to give back to his family. He spent his time serving others and now we can say thank you by helping them,” Salotti said.