Stolen memorial benches honoring fallen teens recovered

Grants Pass, Ore. – A missing memorial bench meant to honor two Grants Pass High School students killed in a plane crash has been found.

GPHS track team members Max Belnap and Ryan Merker died along with pilot John Belnap after their small plane crashed into the ocean near off the Brookings coast on July 4, 2016.

Following the tragedy, Luke Belnap crafted an elm wood memorial bench erected at the high school.

Mark Hubbard was Max Belnap’s best friend. He said the bench is more than a seat to those who knew Belnap and Merker. It was something nice thing to look at every time they hit the track–reminder of their teammates.

In July 2017, the wood forming the seat and back of the bench were apparently stolen.

On August 3, GPHS’s track and field team announced the wood slabs were found on the side of the road near Hugo.

Even though the metal plaque once embedded in the bench is still missing, the community is glad to have it back.

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