Community remembers Guardian Flight crew lost in January plane crash

A helicopter flies over the memorial service for three air ambulance crew members who died when their plane went down in January 2019. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

Four months after a medevac plane went down near Kake, family, friends and colleagues gathered Friday to honor the Juneau-based crew members who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

In an emotional memorial service at Juneau-Douglas High School, speakers remembered pilot Patrick Coyle, 63, paramedic Margaret Langston, 43, and flight nurse Stacie Morse, 30, who was pregnant with a daughter named Delta Rae when the plane disappeared over Frederick Sound on Jan. 29.

Guardian Flight colleagues remembered Coyle’s sense of humor and generosity, Langston’s warmth and composure and Morse’s infectious smile and passion for nursing.

The resounding message was this: Each of them loved their job and will be greatly missed.

Fellow first responders honored the crew with a traditional last call ceremony, symbolizing the end of their shift.

Hundreds turned out, including many members of Juneau’s first responder community who came to pay their respects.

Guardian Flight pilot Eric Magnusson said he and his colleagues are forever grateful for the support they’ve received.

“They came and cared for us and supported us, and it was an amazing thing that they did,” Magnusson said. “We’re just all very, very grateful.”

Fire and EMS personnel from Kake also spoke at the service. Some of them were waiting at the airstrip that night with a patient awaiting pickup.

Kake fire chief Calvin Wilson Jr. said their community of about 600 people relies on private air ambulance companies like Guardian Flight for lifesaving medical transports.

“Anywhere from the little babies up to the Elders, and our community is really thankful for that,” Wilson said.

When the plane didn’t arrive, he said residents began helping with the search within minutes.

The decision to come to the memorial service was just as immediate.

“It touched a lot of us back home,” Wilson said. “We hope that we’re able to bring some comfort to the family by being here.”

After the service, mourners filed outside where helicopters staged an honorary flyover.

Recovery efforts went on for two months after the Guardian Flight plane went missing. Search crews recovered parts of the plane, including the cockpit voice recorder, but they were unable to locate any sign of the crew.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still analyzing the evidence to determine what happened.

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