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LODDs: 4 victims identified in Calif. medical plane crash

Cal-Ore Life Flight president: "This is one of the saddest moments in our history"

Duty Death: Larry Mills, Deborah Kroon, Michelle Tarwater - [Crannell, California]

End of Service: 07/29/2016


By Evan Sernoffsky
The San Francisco Chronicle

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. — A pilot with two decades of experience, a nurse and a paramedic were identified Monday as three of the four victims killed when a medical transport plane en route to Oakland crashed last week in Humboldt County.

Officials identified April Rodriquez as the patient being flown from Crescent City (Del Norte County) to Oakland International Airport on the Cal-Ore Life Flight plane, operated by Reach Air Medical Services. All of the occupants were from Crescent City, authorities said.

An engine nose cone with a bent propellor blade and other wreckage from a medical transport plane that crashed are shown on a road east of Crannell, Calif., Friday, July 29, 2016. Authorities found the wreckage of a small medical transport plane with four people aboard and confirmed at least two deaths Friday after the pilot reported smoke filling the cockpit and a search started across a densely forested mountain range in Northern California. (Shaun Walker/The Times-Standard via AP)
An engine nose cone with a bent propellor blade and other wreckage from a medical transport plane that crashed are shown on a road east of Crannell, Calif., Friday, July 29, 2016. Authorities found the wreckage of a small medical transport plane with four people aboard and confirmed at least two deaths Friday after the pilot reported smoke filling the cockpit and a search started across a densely forested mountain range in Northern California. (Shaun Walker/The Times-Standard via AP)

“This is one of the saddest moments in our history,” the company’s president, Sean Russell, said in a statement. “First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the patient and our crew members.”

Larry Mills, a father and husband with 20 years of flying experience and 12 years as a volunteer first responder, was piloting the twin-engine Piper PA-31 Cheyenne when he reported smoke filling the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday, officials said.

Mills tried to fly the plane back to Crescent City but it disappeared from radar in rural Humboldt County, 5 miles northeast of the Arcata-Eureka Airport, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Search crews with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office found the plane wreckage around 10 a.m. that morning. All four occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.

Also killed in the crash was flight nurse Deborah Kroon, who was originally from New Zealand and spent 25 years as a critical care nurse in hospitals around the United States, REACH Air Medical Services officials said.

Kroon most recently lived in Crescent City and had been with Cal-Ore Life Flight since October 2014.

Michelle Tarwater, a certified flight paramedic who was with Cal-Ore since 2011, was also killed in the wreck.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

Copyright 2016 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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