Coworkers remember SkyLife flight crew

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A SkyLife helicopter crashed in the fields of Kern County Thursday night, the crash killed all aboard and now those who are left behind are asking what happened.

Silence brought on by sadness from American Ambulance CEO Todd Valeri Friday morning."Excuse me," Valeri said tearfully. "Last night was our company Christmas party and the crew that was assigned to work the helicopter that night wanted to attend, and they did a shift change with those crew members so they could attend the party."

Valeri says flight paramedic Kyle Juarez and flight nurse Marco Lopez weren't regularly scheduled to work Thursday nights but wanted to help out their coworkers. American Ambulance's holiday party held at Tornino's turned from celebration to shock and sadness when people there learned about the horrific crash.

The SkyLife medical helicopter was halfway through it's 20 minute flight from Porterville to Bakersfield when it crashed. "I hired both Marco and Kyle and interviewed them both," Valeri said. "Impressive, impressive men dedicated to what they do. Loved by everyone in this company -- very well known.

Valeri says the charismatic men worked hard to fly with SkyLife. The pilot 49-year-old Thomas Hampl was a pilot with Partner Rogers Helicopters, where he had worked for three years. Officials aren't yet releasing the name of the female patient on board.

"It's a busy system," Dan Lynch with the Department of Public Health said. "And those helicopters stay busy, and so when you see people like the folks on these helicopters they're go-getters. They want to be there."

Neighbors of Juarez say the 37-year old had two young children. His job was a passion. "He was great father," neighbor Jeff Espinola said. "Always willing to help out when needed. I think he'll be greatly missed by the people he worked with "
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