Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 31, 2004

Mandy Shiraki, Danny Villiaros, and Ron Laubacher departed for the island of Hawaii to transport an injured child. The aircraft did not reach their destination, an overdue aircraft EP was followed. I think anyone who knew Mandy would agree, I was sure they would find then on the ground somewhere, a little beat up, but Mandy would emerge with a makeshift splint on a broken leg, carrying Danny over one shoulder and Ron over the other. Mandy was invincible and this would surely give him stories to share for a long time to come.

The wreckage was located February 2 with no survivors. This was devastating news for many people. This was the 2nd air ambulance accident in Hawaii's history. Mandy was (and still is!) a cornerstone in local EMS. Mandy's parents, sisters, daughter, sons, grandson, wife, many nieces and nephews and countless friends miss him deeply.

Danny Villiaros always had a smile on his face and laughed easily. He was a paramedic-firefighter who recently was granted an award for bravery when he unarmed a patient he encountered, protecting his fellow fire fighters from harm. Danny was the newbie at the job, but we have all known him for years. Danny left behind a large extended family, a daughter, son, and also countless friends that mourn his loss.

Ron Laubacher was from the mainland but fit in well here. He was a pilot we enjoyed flying with, one of the "team". He had sharp wit, a sarcastic humor, even as a pilot he understood and participated in our medical humor. Ron was a single social butterfly. He had many friends and always had a lot of fun when he wasn't flying. I teased him I enjoyed living vicariously thru his stories. Ron's family and many friends miss him tremendously.

Never Forget

~ Alexandra Farnsworth

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I never cease to be amazed about the people who have come into my life since losing my best friend in an air medical accident March 8, 2008. One such example is Jason and Jen Haynes.

Jason contacted me about a position with our flight program when we first started up. When we first talked he and his wife were still on the main land. As I can recall, we emailed back and forth and then had a phone conversation or two. He sounded like a nice guy with a southern accent (not very common around these parts) and he had very strong work experience. Jason and his wife, Jen, were going to be in Hawaii and they wanted to stop by to check out the program. When they came into town I showed Jason and Jen around. One of our aircraft was named “The Lena”, in memory of Marlena. I felt compelled to explain to them the relevance of the name as well as our company’s dedication to safety. It had been less than a year since the accident; I suppose the level of my anguish was apparent despite my attempts to remain professional. 

I felt confident that Jason would be a great asset to the company as well as a good fit with the crew. However, I was disappointed to learn that they had decided not to settle in Hawaii just yet but may return after living out of country for a while.

I’m not sure why but we seemed to have an instant connection. They would send an email periodically just to say hello and ask how my English Bulldog Petunia was doing and I would keep up with their adventures by reading their blog. I was thrilled when they told me they were ready to settle in Hawaii. Unfortunately I had made a decision to make a change in my career path and left the program shortly after Jason started. Through the assistance of social networking and the Internet we managed to keep in touch over the next few years.

Jason and Jen returned to the mainland and Jason is working with another flight program. We got to see each other again at AMTC in Florida. His hair was a little different, but it seemed like nothing else had changed. I missed him this year in St. Louis but was happy to receive a phone call from him recently. He told me about an e-magazine that Jen had started. He said she was working on a piece about flight nurses and she wanted to highlight the Air Medical Memorial by sharing my story about Marlena. I am always excited to talk about Marlena or the Air Medical Memorial and associated organizations, so of course I said yes.

After reading the article and reflecting on the recent phone calls with Jason and Jen I had an epiphany. I was astounded when considering all of the truly special people I have met since losing Marlena. Of course I would give ANYTHING to have her back, these people have been a blessing to me in so many ways. In addition, the opportunity to be involved with organizations that are working to make positive changes in our industry has made me feel more in control and less of a victim as well as help me deal with all of the pain and anger of losing a best friend.

I would really like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you, who whether you know it or not, have been a blessing to me. Thank you!!!

Never Forget, Be Vigilant, Fly Safe,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Medical Helicopter Crashes in Florida with 3 Onboard

Dr. Luis Bonilla, David Hines and E. Hoke Smith
Three people, a pilot and two medical personnel, lost their lives monday morning when their helicopter went down. The aircraft was en route to the Shands at University of Florida in Gainesville. The flight, which originated at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville at 5:45 a.m., did not have a patient on board.

The accident site is located on the Clay and Putnam county line near Palatka in Northeast Florida.

Memorial page honoring the crew
Dr. Rupp/Mayo Clinic Message
Pilot in Mayo Clinic copter crash had spent life flying, son says
Mayo Clini Rremembers Dr. Luis Bonilla
Mayo Clinic Remembers David- Hines

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No injuries reported in helicopter crash

No one was injured in a helicopter crash north of Rock Springs, Wyoming early Tuesday evening. At the scene, Sheriff Rich Haskell said Undersheriff Craig Jackson was on Yellowstone Road about 3 miles north of the city when he saw a helicopter circling west of the roadway around 6 p.m. He then observed the helicopter drop straight to the ground from a relatively low altitude.  Jackson investigated and found the craft to be a Guardian Flight helicopter with five people aboard, none of whom were patients. None were injured in the crash. Haskell said federal officials are being notified and will be in charge of the investigation. He said he planned on releasing additional information on Wednesday.

Information from: Rock Springs Rocket-Miner

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Air ambulance crash kills three

William Didier, John W. Bialek, and Ilomae Bialek
On Monday night, November 28th, a medical airplane operated by Trans North Aviation crashed near Riverwoods Illinois en route to Chicago from Jesup, Georgia.  The pilot, William Didier, patient John Bialek, and his wife Ilomae did not survive. The flight paramedic and a pilot in traing survived the accident.

Memorial Page Honoring William Didier
Article: Brother Reflects on Life of Pilot 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life Flight, March 3, 1980

This morning we received a thoughtfully written synopsis of the Life Flight accident in Des Moines Iowa on March 3, 1980. Included were photos of the crewmembers, Hallie Burns, Maureen Griffin and Nick Roetnor, as well as the aircraft. These were submitted through our web site anonymously, and I would like to thank whomever took the time to scan these clippings and help us tell more of the story.

I’m sure, to many people, it may seem like 1980 was a long time ago, and any healing that needed to happen as a result of this accident has taken place. The reality is, for those closest to the victims, the pain never really leaves or fades, but rather becomes a new realty.

Hallie Burns, Maureen Griffin and Nick Roetnor
We hope that our efforts will help others live in that new realty by creating a permanent place recognizing Hallie, Maureen, Nick and many others.

Someone held on to the article for many years. This person may have been a family member, a team member or a friend, but they refused to let their memory pass. They wanted us to know more, and now we do.

One of the founding principles of this organization is to recognize every fallen crewmember and to learn their story. Thank to this person, we now have faces to go with their names and the importance of the memorial becomes even greater.

Together, we remember and honor.

Visit the Life Flight crew page.