KNAU and Arizona News
12:49 am
Tue July 8, 2008

Many remember crash victims

Flagstaff, AZ –
AMBY: Bagpipes

It was a day very much like the day the helicopters crashed more than a week ago - clear sky, calm breeze.

Blue flight suits, red scrubs, park service green, Hot Shot yellow and almost all of the other uniform colors were represented.

AMBY: sound of bagpipes and guard marching onto stage

Bagpipes played as the Honor Guard marched to the stage. They formed a uniform V around the speakers.

Six empty helmets lay in front of them representing the six in uniform who died - Classic Lifeguard pilot Tom Caldwell, medic Tom Clausing, flight nurse James Taylor, and their patient firefighter Michael MacDonald, Guardian Air pilot Patrick Graham, flight nurse Shawn Shreeve and their patient Raymond Zest.

Craig Yale is the vice president of Air Methods that contracted with Guardian. They are the nation's largest provider of air medical emergency transport services. He told the crowd what a flight crew wants every patient to know:

YALE: I will fight for you like no one before has ever fought for you. During this difficult time you have my undivided attention, my whole hearted allegiance and my most fervent hopes. I will help you marshal your strength and your resolve and together we will get through this. You will probably not remember us or this time but know for few extraordinary moments as you travel between earth and sky we were your flight crew and we were on your side.

Yale's speech helped people come to grips with why these emergency medical professionals take on such risky jobs.

YALE: It's a mission, a passion, a purpose and a calling. When you see a child that has a tomorrow because of the skill and dedication of these professionals you will see James, and Shawn and Tom and know why. When you see a father who once had a heart attack now dancing with his daughter on her wedding day you can see Tom and Pat and understand.

Speaking on behalf of firefighter Michael MacDonald, Montana's Black Feet Nation and the Hot Shots was Glen Still Smoking. MacDonald was a patient on board the Classic Lifeguard helicopter. He had been working a fire on the north rim of Grand Canyon.

STILL SMOKING: I believe we go forth to fight fires the way the old Black Feet warriors went forth with courage, honor, dignity and respect. The hot shots have all of these outstanding characters and they go forth as representatives of our people and we are very proud of each and every one.

Chief of emergency services at Grand Canyon Ken Phillips reminded the crowd that Coconino County is the second largest county in the country so helicopters must respond to many emergencies in remote places.

Phillips shared a story about a recent air medical rescue at Grand Canyon. 76-year-old Edward Plummer almost died during a recent visit. His wife called 9-1-1. Within two minutes park rangers responded to the call. He was transported to Flagstaff Medical Center where he received a cardiac stint. He's expected to completely recover.

PHILLIPS: In the words of Ed's wife Evelyn thank you from the bottom of my heart I was not ready to be a widow. As for the people involved in this rescue I can't thank them enough. How can you thank someone who saves the life of the person most important to your life. This is not an isolated example. Reflecting on the mid air collision Evelyn said these people are heroes to be recognized as such.'

After the ceremony men and women in uniform lined the sidewalk to salute the loved ones of those who died. At that point several helicopters flew overhead including one from Guardian Air and one from Classic Lifeguard. They flew in tandem and then departed.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.