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Silver Star Discontinues Cell Service In Star Valley; 2,200 Customers Affected

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A cellular telephone company is discontinuing its service in the Star Valley of western Wyoming after six years, leaving more than 2,000 customers to find a new service provider by the end of the year.

Eric Gewiss, spokesman for Silver Star, told Cowboy State Daily that 2,200 customers will be affected by the company’s decision to discontinue cell service in Star Valley by Dec. 30. When the company first entered the area around 2017, it had approximately 6,000 customers.

“This decision has been weighing on us for a long time,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “It was a difficult decision and a lot of analysis and discussion and consultation went into it.”

Gewiss explained that as cell service technology continues to improve, more upgrades are required, such as improving wireless mobile telecommunication technology from the common third generation, or 3G, to the current fifth generation, or 5G.

These upgrades can cost millions of dollars and without enough customers in the area to justify them, the decision was made to ultimately discontinue service in the area. Contributing to the decision was the company’s inability to provide perks offered by larger companies such as unlimited national data plans.

“When we started doing this, it was because there was a gap in rural coverage and the national carriers certainly weren’t in those rural areas,” Gewiss said. “But what’s happened over the last several years is that national carriers are staring to get more and more coverage in the rural areas.”

Silver Star cell service will not immediately stop. Customers have until Dec. 30 to switch to a different mobile carrier, which Gewiss said will give them time to do their own research and decide which cell service is best suited for them.

Gewiss also clarified that Silver Star was not going out of business, as some speculated on social media after the discontinuation announcement. The company will also continue to provide internet service in its coverage areas.

“The wireless business is only 10% of Silver Star’s work and we actually serve more customers in Idaho than in Wyoming,” he said.

The Wyoming Business Council declined to comment for this story, since Silver Star is a private business.

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Star Valley Couple Host Live Nativity In Honor Of Late Son

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Olivia Heiner was so looking forward to Christmas this year.

While the pandemic had affected many people, she and her husband Tre Heiner had welcomed a beautiful baby boy named Clyde at the beginning of the year and she couldn’t wait for his first holiday. This was the couple’s first child, and she was elated to give her little man the best Christmas ever.

Unfortunately, the Heiners’ lives changed in an instant when Clyde died in an accident in late September, just eight months old.

Olivia and Tre were absolutely devastated, as was the rest of their family, friends and community of Thayne in Wyoming’s Star Valley.

“They had just become parents, and then all of the sudden, they weren’t parents, all over again,” Olivia Heiner’s sister, Taffy Micheli, told Cowboy State Daily.

Not only did they have to deal with the grief of losing their first child so suddenly, the couple also had to find a way to pay for the funeral.

Micheli noted that while 2020 has been a terrible year for so many reasons, her faith in humanity began to be restored after Clyde’s death.

Her sister-in-law, Haley Davis, organized a Facebook auction, “Auction for Baby Clyde,” to help the Heiners raise money to pay for funeral expenses and other expenses incurred from Clyde’s passing.

Within just a couple of days of launching the auction, it blew up. At the time of this writing, the group had around 4,800 members. Around 750 items were donated and thousands of dollars were raised to help the Heiner family.

In fact, there was honestly too much money for the couple. While they appreciated the support, they also knew they couldn’t profit off of such a tragedy.

So, the two have been working on ways to give back to the community. Over two weekends in December, the Heiners hosted a live nativity scene, complete with actors and animals, in honor of Clyde.

“Livi wanted to do something that would take their minds off of their sadness and do something that would just help spread love at Christmas,” Micheli said. “She felt like that’s what Clyde would want.”

Hundreds of people turned out over the four-day period of the nativity scene to see Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem while also supporting the Heiners in their bid to give back to the community that had been so supportive of them.

Narration for the scene was provided by the four-year-old son of a childhood friend of Olivia Heiner’s, who Micheli said was supposed to represent Clyde, albeit a little older.

“Olivia saw a video of this little boy on Facebook about a week after Clyde passed, and she just loved his voice and expression, so when she started planning the nativity, she reached out to the boy’s mom and asked if he would record some audio for it, and they did it,” Micheli said.

The boy’s mother, Becky DeFigueiredo, posted a video of her son, David, reciting the verses for the nativity, which also went viral. The video has been viewed around 6 million times as of Monday.

Micheli said she had a realization while attending the live nativity on Sunday night.

“Jesus died tragically and too early, but because of his death, the whole world was changed and we’re all so blessed by that,” she said. “I feel that’s what happened with Clyde. He lived a short time, but he taught us how to live and how to love. He died too soon, but we’re all blessed by him.”

Olivia Heiner has a saying, “Live like Clyde,” which friends and family members have also adopted.

“We want to be better because of Clyde,” Micheli said.

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Pilot Bails Out With Parachute To Survive Plane Crash In Star Valley

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Story and Photos by Don Dockstader, Star Valley Independent

A single-engine plane crash in Grover Monday afternoon left a pilot with minor injuries after he bailed out of the failed aircraft while still in flight, using a parachute to safely land.

Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson said the plane went down in a field near County Road 130 in the Grover area and the pilot sustained minor back injuries after he landed with the aid of parachute.

The incident has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration for review.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Star Valley EMS and Afton Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene.

The fire department applied water to the crash site as a precaution, while several fire fighters combed the fields to find the downed pilot.

Additional information is expected following the FAA review.

Original Story

Multiple calls came into the Lincoln County Dispatch Office at approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday August 10, reporting a plane crash in the Grover area.

According to initial reports, the pilot parachuted out of the plane prior to impact.

Multiple agencies responded to the call including the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, the Star Valley EMS, the Afton Volunteer Fire Department and the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

More information on this story will be added here as it becomes available.

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