OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The Forest Service employees whose plane crashed in Montana were young, dedicated, hardworking people doing the sort of basic research that makes all the other work of the Forest Service possible, their supervisor said.
"I just saw them last week," said Mike Wilson, program manager for the Forest Inventory and Analysis Station in Ogden. "Great kids, just wonderful and intelligent, and they loved their jobs."
He said he wasn't too surprised that two of them managed to hike to safety.
Five people were in the plane that crashed Monday in the Montana wilderness.
One was the pilot, one was a Forest Service employee of the Flathead National Forest, and three worked for Wilson doing inventory and analysis work in the nation's forests.
One of the three, team leader Davita Bryant, 32, Kalispell, Mont., was killed in the crash.
Also killed was Jim Long, Kalispell, the pilot of the plane. Ken Good, Whitefish, Mont., an employee of the Flathead National Forest, survived the crash but died Tuesday morning before rescuers could reach the scene.
The two others who worked for Wilson, Jodee Hogg, 23, Billings, Mont., and Matthew Ramige, 29, Jackson, Wyo., hiked more than a day to a highway where they were rescued Wednesday afternoon.
Forest Service spokesman Dave Tippets said Hogg was being treated for back injuries at a Kalispell hospital. Ramige suffered burns over 30 percent of his body and was being treated at a Seattle burn center.
Wilson said Thursday that the pair's work involves a lot of backcountry travel, "and these people have done this a few years so they're used to being in the middle of nowhere and hiking long distances."
Wilson said the flight was taking the four Forest Service workers to conduct surveys in wilderness areas of the nation's forests. The work is part of the Forest Service called the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program.
The work provides the scientific foundation for decisions about managing public lands.
Wilson said it is that importance that drives his field workers, 100 of whom range from Montana to New Mexico, covering eight states.
"I think they really see the value in the job, because it's the only wall-to-wall effort to describe what we have in the forests in this country," he said. "They see a lot of value, and every day is a different condition for them."
Wilson said Bryant has been working for the inventory and analysis section since 1999 and was a long-term employee in a job that takes special people because it is so arduous.
Hogg has worked two years for the Forest Service as a seasonal worker in the inventory and analysis section. She has a bachelor's of science degree in wildlife biology from the University of Montana. Ramige, also a seasonal worker, has been doing inventory and analysis work since 1999 and has a degree in forestry with a geology minor.
Wilson said Ramige, who was born in Detroit, moved west because he "loved the woods, loved that northern Montana land."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)