Durango residents killed in medical helicopter crash
DURANGO – Three people killed when a medical evacuation helicopter crashed on the way to a logging accident in southwestern Colorado were identified Friday as Durango residents.The victims were the pilot Jim Saler, 40, and emergency medical workers Bill Podmayer, 49, and Scott Hyslop, 33, according to a statement from Mercy Medical Center, the hospital where the men worked.”This is a tight-knit community and many of us knew these men both professionally and personally,” the statement said. “We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life; our only solace is knowing that these brave men died doing what they loved to do: helping others in need.”No patients were on the Tri-State Careflight helicopter, which crashed while preparing to land in a wooded area 30 miles west of Durango. The crew was called after a logger suffered a broken leg and head injuries in the San Juan National Forest, Montezuma County undersheriff Dave Hart said.The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.Podmayer, known for organizing weekend outings for hospital staff, worked in the Intensive Care Unit until becoming a senior flight nurse when the helicopter service was launched in Durango last year.”He lived for that job,” Podmayer’s wife, Judy Hill, said in a statement. “The autonomy, the challenge. He just loved his job.”Friends said Podmayer’s uplifting nature was infectious and that his love for skiing and rafting attracted him to Durango from Massachusetts.Saler, a married father with three daughters, was a 20-year Army veteran who told friends he preferred flying around the jagged peaks of southwest Colorado to Baghdad. His sister, Lisa Tachibana of Kalaheo, Hawaii, said Saler was a medevac pilot in Kuwait during Desert Storm and returned from a seven-month stint in Iraq in March 2004.Tachibana said her brother was “the best” and said they “were very close.”Hyslop, a paramedic with Durango Fire and Rescue, had a five-month-old son with his wife, Elizabeth. The couple moved to Durango from Boston.Friends said he was an avid backcountry skier, ice climber and cyclist who recently participated in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Tour, a 47-mile road race with an elevation climb of 5,500 feet.”He was really enjoying being a dad,” friend Jennifer Simon said. “If there was any way that he would want to go, it would be helping somebody.”Tri-State Careflight, based in Bullhead, Ariz., has aircraft and crews stationed at the Durango airport and other airports in Arizona and New Mexico.
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