Memorial honors helicopter crash victims

October 24, 2008 10:05:05 AM PDT
A memorial service took place Friday morning to honor the victims of last week's medical helicopter crash in Aurora. Three crew members of an Air Angels helicopter and a one-year-old patient died in the crash. Friends and family came not only to mourn their deaths but also to honor their lives. They gathered in hopes of helping to heal a community and themselves.

"It's a family that you're a part of. So it's almost like when you lose a flight member, it's like losing a family member," said Melissa Kolarik, flight nurse.

Those at Friday's memorial service wanted to celebrate the lives of those lost in the Air Angels helicopter crash: the war hero and pilot of the medical transport, Delbert Waugh; the dedicated flight nurse William Mann, flight nurse Ronald Battiato, and the patient they cared for, 14-month-old Kirstin Blockinger.

"I think we have to show support for the job, because it is a hard job, and it is, I don't know, dangerous. It can be. It could be any one of us," said Caryn Beisner, flight nurse.

It was a week ago Wednesday that an Air angels Helicopter clipped the support wire of a radio tower and crashed, killing all on board. As the families of the victims arrived for Friday's service, federal investigators were still searching for what caused the deadly accident. Authorities say nothing in the wreckage indicates mechanical problems with the craft and the pilot's radio communications as well as radar data show no apparent problems with the flight. Security video also shows the warning lights on the radio tower were appearing to work properly. Air Angels has suspended air operations indefinitely while they check their safety protocols.

"I spoke with the lead investigator a couple days ago. You know, I don't think there is anything new. I don't think any of us have any answers yet. That's why we brought in our own team to work kind of in conjunction with them. The way you move forward is you ensure integrity and safety. You ensure you have a safe program. You ensure the people's well-being first and foremost that they are ready to go back to work. That's what you do," said Jim Adams, CEO, Air Angels.

After the service, there will be a procession to the crash site where family members of those who died will lay four wreaths in memory of the victims.

Funeral were held for the four victims this past week.

Pilot Delbert Waugh's funeral was held at a war memorial in Indianapolis Thursday. Afterwards his family and friends gathered at a VFM in Carmel, Indiana, to celebrate his life.

The patient aboard the helicopter - one-year-old Kirstin Blockinger - was buried in a small white casket. Her funeral was held at First United Methodist Church in DeKalb on Monday.

Flight nurse William Mann was also buried on Monday. At his funeral in Norridge mourners wore black arm bands in honor of everyone who died.

Last weekend, paramedic Ron Battiato was laid to rest. The veteran Chicago Heights firefighter was married with six children ranging in age from 5 months to 15 years old.


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