First responder community grieves lost helicopter crew

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The first responders community is grieving after a SkyLife helicopter crashed and killed 4 people onboard.

The SkyLife helicopter is still sitting in the field where it went down Thursday. Investigators say the cockpit is fragmented and separated from the tail. Three members of a rescue team were killed along with a person who was being rescued.

Thomas Hampl was the pilot. He was married with two children and he had more than a decade of flight experience. His wife Sheli wrote in a statement, "Thomas was an amazing man. Highly respected, conscientious, thorough and thoughtful in his approach to everything he did. Everybody loved him. We will miss him so much."

Kyle Juarez and Marco Lopez were the medical part of the rescue team, a paramedic and a nurse. Neither Juarez or Lopez were scheduled to work Thursday night but they offered to switch shifts with their co-workers.

American Ambulance CEO Todd Valeri said, " last night was our company Christmas party and the crew that was assigned to work the helicopter that night wanted to attend."

Neighbors say Lopez was also a dad. He had two children and was a friendly guy who was always willing to help.

Lizeth Delitorre said, "so sad because he was a good friend and a good neighbor."

Maria De Jesus Espitia added, "it hit me real bad because he was a good friend and a good neighbor."

Juarez had two children of his own. Neighbors say he was passionate about his work.

"I think he'll be greatly missed by the people he worked with," said Jeff Espinola.

There are still a lot of questions about what happened. Investigators say when the helicopter crashed, there was no distress call and no sign of a collision with power lines. American Ambulance says maintenance was up to date and there were no prior mechanical issues. Foggy weather could have been a factor but the NTSB has to take a closer look to find answers.

The wreckage will be trucked to Sacramento on Saturday. The NTSB says a preliminary report on the crash will be released in five to six days but it could take months to figure out the cause.
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