Family, friends bid farewell to Benway |

Family, friends bid farewell to Benway

Tamara Miller
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyHundreds line up outside Donovan Pavilion on Saturday in Vail for a memorial service for Tim Benway, a pilot who grew up in Vail and died Jan. 11 while flying a medical evacuation flight to Wyoming.

VAIL – As one family friend put it, if a man’s wealth could be measured by his amount of friends then former Eagle County resident Tim Benway was indeed a rich man.The pews were overflowing at the Vail Interfaith Chapel Saturday with friends and family coming together to celebrate Benway’s life. Benway, a 35-year-old pilot who lived in the Steamboat Springs area, died in an air ambulance plane crash outside of Rawlins, Wyo. on Jan. 11. Benway, who was flying the plane, was the middle of three sons of Edwards residents Larry and Willie Benway. He was free-spirited and passionate, ornery and loving, friends said. Family friend and local doctor Phil Freedman recalled Benway’s first experience flying a plane. He was 11 and Freedman was with him. “When I see a kid with an infectious smile and a twinkle in his eye, I’ll think of Tim,” Freedman said. Benway’s love for flying grew into a successful career. He grew up in and around Vail, and graduated from Vail Mountain School in 1987. He graduated from Metro State College in Denver with a bachelor’s of science degree in aviation in May 1997, according to his obituary.He worked as a commercial pilot before moving to the Steamboat Springs area, where he worked for Mountain Flight Services.

He was a meticulous, “excellent” pilot, said Peter Obernesser, another family friend. He was well-respected for his abilities among his colleagues, he said. Benway always had a knack for machinery and the confidence to do just about anything to go with it, Obernesser said. Benway once interviewed for a job as a CAT operator. While he had never used the equipment before, Benway told the interviewer he had. He was hired, figured out the machinery quickly, and had a job for the summer, he said. Family friends joked about Benway’s popularity with women, his confidence “bordering on cocky.””He always had the best lawyer, the best doctor,” Obernesser said. Benway was never too timid to try something new, he said, and he was an avid outdoorsman and a hunter, too. “He knew the Gore Range like the back of his hand,” Obernesser said. Naturally athletic and likable, Benway was “the kind of kid every parent wants,” Freedman said. He also was a loving son and grandson, friends said.

Just days before he died, Benway was returning from a trip. Rather than driving straight home to Steamboat Springs, he made a detour to visit his grandmother, Obernesser said. Benway was piloting a 1978 Beech E-90 King Air Turboprop, carrying three members of the Yampa Valley Medical Center from Steamboat Springs. They were heading to Rawlins to pick up a car accident victim and deliver him to a hospital in Casper, Wyo.The plane went down shortly before 10 p.m. a few miles short of the runway. Benway was familiar with the flight pattern and published reports indicate the path he was taking was consistent with an instrument approach to the airport. The cause of the crash has not been determined.Also killed were air ambulance director and flight nurse Dave Linner, 36, and flight nurse Jennifer Wells, 30. A fourth passenger, Emergency Medical Technician Tim Baldwin, 35, survived the crash, but was seriously injured.While he grew up serving as an altar boy, the adult Benway never spent much time in church, said Rev. Stuart Brooks Keith III, who was presided over Saturday’s Episcopalian service. Nevertheless, he was a spiritual person, Keith said.

“I believe Tim knew more about God than we think,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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