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LODDs: Medical helicopter crash victims identified

Paramedic Kyle Juarez, 37, flight nurse Marco Lopez, 42, and pilot Thomas Hampl, 49 died when their medical helicopter crashed

Duty Death: Kyle Juarez, Marco Lopez, Thomas Hampl - [Fresno, California]

End of Service: 12/10/2015


MCFARLAND, Calif. — The SkyLife crew killed in a medical helicopter crash Thursday night has been identified.

Paramedic Kyle Juarez, 37, critical care flight nurse Marco Lopez, 42, pilot Thomas Hampl, 49, and a female patient who wasn’t identified died when their SkyLife helicopter went down in a remote field about halfway through its planned 50-mile trip.

"These people here, they save lives. That’s what they do," said American Ambulance President and CEO Todd Valeri at a press conference Friday.

Paramedic Kyle Juarez was one of the four victims of the Skylife medical helicopter crash. (Facebook photo)
Paramedic Kyle Juarez was one of the four victims of the Skylife medical helicopter crash. (Facebook photo)

Valeri said Juarez and Lopez, who had been with the company for nine and three years, respectively, were impressive men, dedicated to what they did.

Juarez had "a smile that would light up a room," Valeri said. "(He was) incredibly dedicated, loved by his coworkers."

The helicopter was headed from Porterville Municipal Airport to San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield for a critical care patient transfer when it crashed.

The weather might have been a factor in the crash, as there was dense fog and heavy rain in the area, which also made it difficult for rescue crews to reach the crash site after the helicopter went missing.

The crew departed at 6:52 p.m. Dispatch attempted to make contact with the crew at 7:05 p.m. After several unsuccessful attempts, authorities were alerted.

The helicopter went down on cattle-grazing hills near the town of McFarland, 135 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The nearest highway was more than 2 miles away from the crash site.

A sheriff’s helicopter reported finding debris around 8:35 p.m. and rescue crews reached the site around 10 p.m., confirming the fatalities.

The crew didn’t make any distress call and it is still unknown how the crash happened.

Valeri said this is the first time an Air Ambulance helicopter crashed.

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