Becker’s Son Survives Montana
By Greta Petry (October 8, 2004)
As an assistant professor in UAlbany’s School
of Business, Wendy S. Becker has been in the
national news before, talking on National Public
Radio about the need for trained forensic scientists
to handle a backlog of DNA criminal cases. When
her son’s plane went down in the mountainous
terrain of Montana last month, however, Becker
was in the news for a much more personal story.
After teaching her morning MBA class on Tuesday,
Sept. 21, Becker got the worst phone call imaginable
for a parent. Her son, Matthew Ramige, 29, had
been on a plane that was lost in a storm in
Montana the day before. The plane, with five
people on board, was on a mission for the Forest
Service and was headed for Big Bear-Bob Marshall
Wilderness near Glacier National Park. After
rushing to Kalispell, Mont., Becker was told
the plane had crashed and there were no survivors.
As her family gathered around her for support,
she found out on Wednesday that he was very
much alive. Despite a broken back and severe
burns, Matt had hiked out of the woods to the
highway with a surviving co-worker, Jodee Hogg.
Becker told “Good Morning America” that she
hadn’t slept in three days while all this was
going on. The inspirational story has attracted
nationwide media attention.
Ramige and Hogg, 23, emerged from the wilderness
after their deaths had been announced by the
Flathead County, Mont., sheriff and the Forest
According to news reports, the pilot of the
aircraft, Jim Long, 60, was caught in bad weather
shortly after takeoff. One veteran pilot said
that when clouds roll in across the peaks of
the Rockies, there is no choice but to go up.
The plane hit a rock on Mount Liebig shortly
after takeoff, broke into pieces, and caught
Hogg is credited with pulling Ramige out of
the aircraft, while Long pushed Ken Good, 58,
from the plane. Long and Davita Bryant, 32,
never made it out of the plane.
Hogg, Ramige, and Good huddled that night to
survive the 20-degree temperatures, and had
neither food nor matches to build a fire. After
Good died the next morning, Hogg and Ramige
decided to begin their painful trek to the highway.
They could hear helicopters above but could
not attract their attention in the bad weather.
They spent a second night in the mountains without
food or shelter, drinking water from the forest
Ramige was life flighted in serious condition
to Harborview Hospital in Seattle, where he
is being treated for a broken spine and severe
burns. Hogg was treated for burns and bruises
at a hospital in Kalispell. Ramige will receive
skin grafts to his chest, thighs, and hands,
but is expected to make a full recovery. Becker
told Update that her son has worked for the
Forest Service since he received his degree
in forestry from the University of Montana in
1999. He is an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing,
hiking, camping, and golf. Even in high school,
he planned weekend camping trips with his friends
and hiked the Appalachian Trail. His summer
job while in college involved leading student
wilderness expeditions to the Rocky Mountains
for weeks at a time.
While relieved that her son survived, Becker
said her joy is muted as her family grieves
for the three who were lost in the crash.
Becker is an industrial-organizational psychologist
who teaches Human Resource
Management and Motivation,
Productivity, and Change Management in
UAlbany’s School of Business.