Friends, Family Remember Mercy Air Crash

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — Bits and pieces of the Mercy Air wreckage remain on the Cajon Pass hillside in southern California where the helicopter crashed one year ago Monday, killing all three crew members on board.

They are small but full of memory. At a shrine placed on the crash site by colleagues and friends, there s a sign saying Flight Nurse Parking Only.

Then, embedded in a small bit of concrete, there s a zipper pull in the shape of a smiley face that medic Jerry Miller wore on his flight suit, and a medical cross with wings above a caduceus, symbolizing medical flight, that Katrina Kish s former medic partner wore as an army medic.

There are twisted bits of metal, including one with studs still on it — to honor pilot Paul Latour.

We know that pretty much all of this is what he did, it was his life, said flight nurse Marie Podboy, who helped build the shrine.

Latour, Miller and Kish went down on the night of Dec. 10, 2006, after returning home on their fifth and final flight from Loma Linda Medical Center. The helicopter exploded on impact and left a deep scar in the hillside — where friends and family gathered Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not issued its accident report, but it is expected by the end of the year.

Tears waited like raindrops on a branch — and trickled down — as the group prayed, laughed and remembered the three angels who were the Mercy Air crew.

I have his little notepad that he kept, said Tammy Miller, wife of Jerry. He never wrote on it because he wrote on his hands. But there was only a little burn mark.

Miller has had a particularly bitter pill to swallow, having lost her former husband, a San Bernardino County sheriff s deputy, in March 2005 when he was hit by a drunken driver while riding a bicycle.

This isn t my first loss, so I ve been able to know that God s in control, she said Monday. It s not my plan, it s His, and what you get is what you get.

She is accustomed to tragedy.

My brother was killed by a drunk driver and he was in the military, she said. It stayed with me forever. People would say, you re married to a cop, aren t you afraid he s going to die? I would say, no, he could hit his foot on the side of the curb. When it s your time, it s your time.

She added: I did not expect only six and a half months after we met. But it s a possibility every day.

Tammy Miller and her husband were text messaging right before the helicopter went down.

I said I love you and he said I love you, too, she recalled. After he told her it was their fifth flight and the weather was bad, she replied You busy bee. He did not reply to her last message.

John Miller, Jerry s brother, said not a day goes by that he doesn t think about his little brother.

Christie Latour and her husband, Paul, were childhood sweethearts, said their friend Sue Kalil.

It was Sue and other friends who came to the Latour house one year ago to break the news to her.

On the hillside Monday, Latour smiled as she and her daughter, Christen, cracked jokes to lighten the mood.

We re celebrating that we made it a year, she told the gathering.

Tim Kish, husband of Katrina, was reportedly flying with the sheriff s department and could not make the service. But the other families reported he was doing well.

Many friends and family are convinced they will see their loved ones again.

Steven Karnazes, Mercy Air s business development coordinator who held the memorial service on the hillside, said: Lord, could you do one more thing, can you just let Katrina, Jerry and Paul know that we love them and we ll see them soon ?

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