Paramedic in chopper crash remembered

Tower repairs completed
October 20, 2008 1:23:44 PM PDT
Aurora police lifted an evacuation order Saturday night for residents near a radio tower that was damaged in a deadly medical helicopter crash. Police in the western suburb say engineers have determined that the tower is stable.On Friday, officials recommended that about 1,000 people leave their homes while the tower was repaired.

Repair crews Saturday continued to remove sections of the 734-foot-high structure. The Air Angels medical chopper clipped one of the tower's wires Wednesday night and plunged to the ground, killing all four who were aboard.

The first funeral for a victim took place Saturday. Family and friends came to a church service in Frankfort, Ill., to say goodbye to 41-year-old paramedic Ronald Battiato.

Battiato was also a South Chicago Heights firefighter. He is survived by his wife and six children, who are aged 5 months to 15 years. Battiato joined the Air Angels 10 months ago, and friends say he was thrilled at the added opportunity to help people.

"He was living his dream. And at any given time, we're out the door, trying to do the job and get the job done. And, unfortunately, sometimes we don't return home," said Asst. Fire Chief Larry Nardoni, family spokesperson.

Investigators who examined the wreckage say there is no indication that the helicopter crashed because of any mechanical problems.

The National Transportation Safety Board also disclosed that veteran pilot Dell Waugh did not radio any indication of trouble. He died in the crash, as did Kirstin Blockinger, a 1-year-old girl who was being flown to a Chicago hospital for treatment.

The fourth crash victim was Bill Mann, an on-board nurse.

"Billy was my best friend in the whole, whole world. He got along with everybody, and brightened the lives of people he interacted with, even briefly," said Dr. Nick Dallas, friend of Bill Mann.

The NTSB is still trying to learn why the accident happened. Until it determines the answer, Air Angels officials have indefinitely suspended their transports of patients.


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