Community members gather to honor victims 15 years after fatal air ambulance crash
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fifteen years have passed since tragedy claimed the lives of three Steamboat Springs residents and another was seriously injured in a Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crash.
Friends, loved ones and local emergency personnel gathered Saturday morning outside the Emergency Department at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Jan. 11, 2005 crash that killed pilot Tim Benway, air ambulance director and flight nurse Dave Linner and flight nurse Jennifer Wells.
Tim Baldwin, an emergency medical technician at the time, was seriously injured but survived the crash. The 1978 Beechcraft King Air E-90 air ambulance, which took off from Steamboat, crashed within view of the runway near Rawlins, Wyoming, as the crew transported a patient to Casper, Wyoming.
Patty Oakland, emergency department nurse and friend of Benway, led the intimate gathering to honor those who died in the flight. Liz Baldwin, Tim Baldwin’s wife, and their son, Everett, joined the group. Tim Baldwin was not available to participate in the service, but sent his love to those who attended.
Standing in front of the looming sculpture created to memorialize the members of the air crew, Oakland tearfully read aloud two poems at the start of the service. The first was from Marcus Tullius Cicero.
“The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living. The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time. Anyone who was given love will always live on in another’s heart,” Oakland read.
“They all live on through the stories that we tell,” Oakland said. “It just felt right to do something this year; just get us all together to remember and honor them.”
The second poem she read, “A Call to Adventure,” was written by poet John Mark Green. Its words captured the adventurist sides of the three, all of whom lived in Steamboat.
Robin Hanley, a close family friend of Benway, spoke earlier with Benway’s parents, who weren’t able to attend the service.
“Tim Benway’s father, Larry Benway, was very grateful to this community that Tim loved so much,” Hanley said. “He was very grateful to Steamboat because Tim rediscovered so much happiness when he lived here.”
It was a love of service that connected the three who died, according to Hanley. It’s important to remember those who were lost but also those currently putting their lives at risk every day in the community, she said.
Several on-duty members of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue attended the service to show support and remembrance of the fallen. Hunter Maddox, a Classic Air Ambulance flight nurse and emergency department nurse, was on a helicopter that flew overhead prior to the service. Maddox’s father, Bob Maddox, was the owner of Mountain Flight Services, which operated Yampa Valley Air Ambulance.
It was also important to Oakland that people were aware of the significance of the sculpture that stands in front of the emergency department.
“(The sculpture) is meant to keep their sacrifice and memory alive,” she said. “And that’s also what we’re doing here today — and everyday.”
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