B-52 Crash Kills Chelan County Man

MALAGA, Chelan County - A flier from this central Washington town died in the crash of an Air Force B-52 that was returning from a bombing mission in the Persian Gulf War, the man's family said.

Gerald Hedeen of Malaga said he and his wife, Dee, were notified yesterday that their son, 1st Lt. Eric Hedeen, 27, died after all six crewmen ejected from their disabled bomber over the Indian Ocean.

The elder Hedeen said they were told their son's body was recovered. ``They said the pilot, co-pilot and gunner survived and were rescued. Eric was the plane's electronic-warfare officer.

``He was doing what he wanted to do. He knew the dangers. We had talked about that,'' said the father, an Air Force pilot in the Korean War era. ``He knew what could happen. But duty, honor and country, they are important to us, and they were to him.''

The bomber crashed last weekend while returning to its base at Diego Garcia, a tiny island 2,000 miles southeast of the Persian Gulf. Two other crewmen are missing.

An Air Force spokeswoman said yesterday that names of those missing from the aircraft had not yet been released.

Hedeen was a lifelong resident of the Wenatchee Valley. He was a 1982 graduate of Wenatchee High School and went on active duty with the Air Force after graduating in architecture from Washington State University in 1987, his father said. At WSU, Hedeen was in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training.

``While we were all watching the war on TV, the war came home,'' said the elder Hedeen, a Malaga orchardist. ``It came right to our doorstep.''

He said the military also notified Eric Hedeen's wife, Susan, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., Sunday of her husband's death. The couple had no children.

Hedeen said his son had been based at Blytheville Air Force Base, Ark., and was transferred to the Persian Gulf a few weeks ago and had been flying bombing missions over Iraqi troop concentrations.

Hedeen said the bomber apparently lost one of its engines on the return trip to Diego Garcia, then suffered a complete electrical failure.