Summit County gathers to remember fallen Flight For Life pilot Patrick Mahany

Flight for Life helicopter pilots Loren Courtney, left, and Adam Wagner along with St. Anthony Summit Medical Center nursing officers Lisa Person, third from left, and Trixie Vanderschaaff hold a moment of silence during the memorial service for fallen pilot, Patrick Mahany Jr., Tuesday, July 3, at the hospital in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

Dozens gathered at the Mahany Heroes Park outside of St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center on Tuesday morning to celebrate the life of Patrick Mahany, a Flight For Life pilot who died three years ago in a helicopter crash in Frisco.

Community members gathered in front of the memorial, flanked by the decommissioned helicopter blades that form the centerpiece of the park, to hear prayers and words of remembrance from some of Mahany’s colleagues. St. Anthony’s CEO Paul Chodkowski, director of mission and ministry Tema Nnamezie, and Flight For Life chaplain Betsy Phelan all delivered poignant readings for the occasion.

“It’s just the family of Summit County gathering together to honor those who have served our community, and particularly those who have suffered the tragedy of the crash three years ago,” said Chodkowski, after the event. “We are also here specifically to honor Patrick Mahany, our pilot who lost his life. So it’s just a great outpouring of love and support for our Flight For Life Crew.”

On July 3, 2015, Mahany and his Flight For Life crew crashed into a parking lot near St. Anthony’s Medical Center just seconds after takeoff. Mahany was killed following the resulting fire, which was caused by an antiquated and non-crash resistant fuel system. He was pulled from the helicopter by hospital technician Jimmy Rhodes but later succumbed to his injuries. Rhodes was awarded the Carnegie Medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh earlier this year for his actions. Mahany’s crewmembers, Dave Repsher and Matt Bowe, both survived the crash though Repsher came away with severe burns on most of his body. In February, Repsher was awarded $100 million in a settlement with the helicopter’s manufacturer and the company that operated it.

Mahany was 64-years-old when he passed and a 27-year veteran pilot for Flight For Life. A New York native, he served as an army pilot in Vietnam from April 1970 to April 1971, logging 1,200 combat hours while earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

For many, the yearly gathering to reflect upon Mahany’s life and death offers the opportunity for introspection, and for others a chance to gather in solidarity and healing.

“Some of the feedback that I’ve gotten from our staff is that this event helps a lot,” said Nnamezie. “We still talk about Patrick every day. We grieved the loss of him, and the gift that he was to our family here. Having a memorial like this helps us to not forget, but also not to reopen the old wounds. This is about partnering and coming together to heal. To show our support, and to journey together is very refreshing and healing.”

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