Helicopter crew, patient remembered at service

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SOLDOTNA - The crew of a medical helicopter that crashed in Prince William Sound was remembered during a service at Central Peninsula Hospital, their base of operations.

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The LifeGuard Alaska helicopter was on its way from Cordova to Anchorage on Dec. 3 when it went missing in blowing snow.

On board the helicopter were flight nurse John Stumpff, pilot Lance Brabham, paramedic Cameron Carter and patient Gaye McDowell, of Cordova. Only Stumpff's body has been recovered along with some helicopter debris and medical equipment near Whittier.

The search was called off last week.

"People spoke of them with love and respect. They could be counted on to do a good job (and) sought to help at all costs the patients entrusted to them," Meg Zerbinos, Central Peninsula Hospital spiritual care coordinator, said of the crew at Sunday's memorial. "In a world so in need of role models, these men are role models for all of us."

When the official search was called off, Central Emergency Services and other civilian boats took up the recovery effort.

Paul Garnet wore his blue flight paramedic uniform in the crew's honor. Garnet helped Stumpff erect a 60-foot high wind tower on Oct. 16.

When he went back to Stumpff's cabin not long after the LifeGuard helicopter went missing, the whirring of the turbines reminded Garnet of Stumpff's triumph over the utility companies by generating his own electricity.

He said, "as the wind blows in Alaska I think I will remember John and his energy."

Central Emergency Services Chief Chris Mokracek said Carter had a great passion for NASCAR and animals. He said even though Carter's family was in Palmer, his extended family was with Central Emergency Services.

Keith Ikerd cut Brabham's lawn every week, and looked forward to it because it meant he could check out Brabham's garage full of toys, including an engine to an old Honda Odyssey.

"At the end of the summer, he put it together and painted it purple," Ikerd said. "We talked about the future, about his future. He would have been a great Alaskan man."

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