Valley Marine killed in chopper crash a former youth leader

FRESNO, Calif.

Marine Sergeant Justin Everett, 33, died when two helicopters collided over a remote California desert late Wednesday night.

Other than the charred earth and scraps of metal there's not much left of the two military helicopters where they collided in the Yuma Training Range near the California Arizona border.

Six other Marines were also killed in that military exercise. Most of them were based in Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Everett was very involved in the youth ministry at Sunnyside Community Church. His friends told Action News that's part of why this Reedley High School graduate became a Marine, so he could share his Christian beliefs in other parts of the world.

Everett was crew chief on board one of the two small helicopters that crashed in the rural training field.

"He was just a really great guy," said life-long friend Amber Filkins. She had known Everett since they were about 10 years old.

She and Everett had spent a lot of time in the youth group at the Sunnyside Community Church.

"As we got a little bit older, that he started helping out with the youth group. He was a youth leader, and would help out with the kids' church and do outreach," she said.

Filkins dug up a prom picture from 1996. She was Everett's date to the dance.

Filkins said she would still keep up with Everett through Facebook. "Every picture that I would see of him you just knew he was doing what he loved to do," she said.

Everett's parents said that's exactly how they and his widow, Holly, are feeling. "[Holly] said I'm really sad. I hurt, but I can't be mad. I can't be angry about it because he was doing what he loved to do," said Patsy Everett, Justin Everett's mother. "And it was, he loved to fly, he loved to be on the helicopter."

Everett and his fellow Marines were training in a rural field that closely mimics the terrain they would have faced in Afghanistan. The Marines were set to deploy there in just two weeks.

"It's a Marine Corps motto 'fight like you train, train like you fight' and as dangerous as combat is to be able to succeed in it the things we do back here training wise do have a lot of inherent risk in them," Marine Corps LT. Tyler Blazer told reporters at MCAS Miramar Thursday.

The deployment would have been Everett's third. He leaves behind three brothers, who are also military men, along with a wife and two young children.

The church's pastor told Action News a special prayer service is being planned for Sunday.

Everett's family will head down to Camp Pendleton Friday morning to be with their daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

They're hoping to hold a memorial service here in the Valley.

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