Dozens gather in remembrance of fallen Flight For Life pilot Patrick Mahany on anniversary of helicopter crash
FRISCO — “Patrick is gone but will never be forgotten,” Rev. Tema Nnamezie said while addressing a crowd of dozens at Mahany Heroes Park on Wednesday morning.
That was the pervasive sentiment traveling through the group gathered outside of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco as they arrived to celebrate the life of Patrick Mahany and to reflect on the sacrifice he made serving his community four years ago.
On July 3, 2015, Mahany and his Flight For Life crew crashed into a parking lot outside of the hospital just moments after takeoff, colliding with another vehicle and sparking a large fire exacerbated by a rupture in the helicopter’s fuel tank. Mahany was killed in the crash. Flight nurses Dave Repsher and Matt Bowe survived the crash but suffered serious injuries. Repsher, who wasn’t initially expected to live, sustained burns over 90% of his body and later won a $100 million lawsuit against the helicopter’s manufacturer.
Mahany was 64 years old at the time of the crash, and a 27-year veteran with Flight For Life. Though his dedication to service goes much further back. Mahany also served as an army pilot during the Vietnam War, where he earned both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Just last month, Frisco held a ceremony to rename the town’s post office after him.
At the remembrance ceremony Wednesday, the crowd took in an invocation from Nnamezie, who serves as the mission and minister director at St. Anthony, along with a reading from the Epistle to the Romans by Flight For Life chaplain Betsy Phelan, and a call and response reading from chaplain Lydia Wittman. Following the brief ceremony, community members paid their respects and talked with others who knew Mahany.
“It’s deeply personal,” Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor, who served as sheriff at the time of the crash, said while considering the memorial outside the hospital. “You know these people. About a month prior, I was sitting around sharing a cup of coffee with Patrick in the cafeteria. We were laughing and joking. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. … But coming here, for me, is good. It’s a personal introspective moment in the sense that I get to say ‘hello’ to Patrick.”
Nnamezie said that while many in the group were still grieving in their own ways, the annual ceremony is meant to serve as a celebration of Mahany’s life and the good work he did around Summit County and beyond.
“What we’ve done today is just an opportunity to thank God for the gift of Patrick, for the gift of having him as a member of our community and the hospital family,” Nnamezie said following the ceremony. “It’s not about reopening old wounds, but it’s about celebrating the joy and the love we shared with Patrick. It is an opportunity to get together and heal. I also see it as an opportunity for us to express our continued support and solidarity with our flight crew.”
For some, the anniversary of the crash is a chance to reflect on Mahany’s sacrifice and to consider the risks that Flight For Life crews and other first responders take every day to save lives and make a difference in their communities. For others, particularly those on scene at the time of the crash, there are daily reminders.
Hospital employees said that between the memorial park, a portrait of Mahany hanging in the emergency room and his name frequently popping up in conversations, Mahany’s strong presence remains.
“I feel really proud and really honored to have known all three of those guys,” said Susan Bradley, director of quality and patient safety at St. Anthony. “They’re not just these pilots that do these things for us. We walk by their office every day. We talk to them and build relationships. They’re part of our family.
“Every time I walk by that office and see them in there when I’m leaving at night, I always yell in and tell them to stay safe. His presence is felt all the time. We feel him and his presence here every day. I think of him every morning when I walk in and when I walk out.”
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