Like most other people around the country, Elko residents are preparing for the joy and heartwarming feelings of the holidays. But this year, as Thanksgiving approaches, memories will first turn to a somber anniversary.
One year ago on a Friday night, an American Medflight plane crashed shortly after taking off from Elko’s airport, killing all four people aboard. That Nov. 18 will long be remembered for the loss it brought to our community, but it will also be an occasion to honor the men and women who serve as first responders whenever duty calls.
Our weekend edition will feature a report on the crash’s anniversary and the memorials that have been held for victims over the past year. Today we are rerunning the editorial that we wrote last Thanksgiving, because it is just as relevant today.
We are also asking everyone who would like to share their thanks to send their names to email@example.com to be included in an online tribute.
One week ago dozens of Elko’s first responders were waking up after a nightmare of a night. Hours before, a fixed-wing air ambulance had crashed in a parking lot near the airport, narrowly missing nearby residences and businesses. The impact set off a series of explosions as the plane burned, killing all four aboard and setting vehicles on fire.
Two officers who were among the first to respond sustained minor injuries as they rushed to help, only to get slammed by a secondary explosion.
We think they deserve awards for bravery. And all of the first responders who served at that frightening scene deserve our thanks and appreciation.
The aircraft and vehicles burned for an hour, as water sprayed from a fire truck did little to stop the flames. The plane’s occupants had no chance of survival, but the crash spared any ground casualties as no one was in the Barrick parking lot. Behind the wheel was pilot Yuji Irie, a Japanese immigrant living in Ely.
“There couldn’t have been a safer place for him to come down without causing additional casualties,” observed Elko police Lt. Rich Genseal. “We need to credit the pilot on that.”
There were probably hundreds of people in the immediate vicinity, between the apartments, motel, casino and shopping mall that surrounded the scene. But no one was in the parking lot, as the latest shift of mine buses had already departed.
The accident happened at the end of a work day – the end of a work week – as many people were beginning to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday ahead. But our police and fire departments are always staffed, and always prepared for the unexpected.
Officers and firefighters from multiple agencies responded, sealing off the streets and highways to keep people out of harm’s way. It was a chaotic and dangerous scene, but our first responders did what was needed without fearing for their own safety. It’s easy to forget, but that’s what these people do day in and day out as they perform their jobs.
Their first goal is to rescue anyone who might be saved. Next, they work to stop the spread of destruction and prevent any further damage or loss of life.
In this incident, it was a matter of emergency crews responding to the scene of what was already an emergency. A patient with a serious medical problem was being transported to Utah.
Besides the pilot and the patient, who were both in their 60s, the crash killed a young father from Utah and a young nurse from Elko who was known for her work as a volunteer firefighter. All four were remembered at a solemn candlelight vigil three nights later.
Friends, family members and other concerned residents would go back to their homes and continue their holiday preparations. And extra prayers were said around the tables on Thursday, for those who were lost and for those who bravely serve to save us.