Two Interior Alaska State Troopers killed in the line of duty are having bridges named after them. The bridges on the Alaska and Steese Highways are being named for Sergeant Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich, who were shot to death while on a call in the village of Tanana on May 1, 2014. Legislation dedicating the bridges was signed into law by Governor Dunleavy Friday in Fairbanks.
One bill names an Alaska Highway bridge at milepost 1,309 over the Tok River for Sergeant Johnson. Johnson grew up in Tok, and his widow Brandy Johnson says the bridge and river have special meaning.
”He and I floated the Tok River as young adults hunting moose and for about the last 18 years, we crossed the Tok River going to and from Eagle, Alaska the hunting camp,” Johnson said. “It just seems fitting to rename the bridge after my best friend Scott.”
The other bill names the Steese Highway mile 39 bridge over the Chatanika River for Trooper Rich. Gabe Rich’s dad, Dave Rich, says they made regular trips up the Steese to visit friends and family in Central, and Gabe always made note of the bridge.
”And when we used to go up there and hunt and four-wheel and hike and do all those things, when we would cross the Chatanika River, he would always say, ‘OK. There’s no turning back. We’re headed for Central.’ It was just a really special place for him,” Dave Rich said.
Rich says his son’s connection with area residents was evident when a petition supporting the bridge naming was quickly filled with signatures. Trooper Rich and Sergeant Johnson were also among fallen officers honored Friday at an annual National Police Memorial Day ceremony in Fairbanks.