Vigil held in Porterville for 4 killed in helicopter crash

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of people gathered for candlelight vigil on Thursday in memory of 4 people who were killed in a helicopter crash.

No words or ceremony can erase the pain many are feeling in Porterville. Some cried, some prayed with candles burning to remember the lives lost on a cold December night. Donna Hefner, the CEO of the Sierra View Medical Center said, "My hope is that the family and friends and colleagues can find peace in knowing that they followed their calling to heal and help others."

The candles were lit at 6:52-- a week to the day and the same time a medevac helicopter took off for a final flight from an airport nearby. It crashed near McFarland and killed the pilot, a nurse, a paramedic, and a patient-- members of the SkyLife family and a teacher from Springville. "This just happened right here in our backyard," said Mark Martinez who lives in Porterville, "emergency personnel, you don't think that would happen to them because they're out there saving other people's lives."

Jennifer Lambarena worked closely with one of the victims. She's a charge nurse and she transfers patients out of the hospital to medevac crews. Her thoughts since the crash have been with the wives who lost husbands and the children who lost fathers. "I'd like to thank you for sharing your dads with us, always remember your daddies are heroes."

It's also a tough loss for the hospital. Lambarena said the halls have been somber and people are pitching in to buy gifts for the kids. "We can't bring their dads back, but we can try to help them a little bit for Christmas."

Even though it will take time to heal, there was some comfort in the candles and some warmth to ease the pain.

The healing will continue Friday morning at 10 in Hanford. The Adventist Medical Center will release balloons in memory of the victims near the helipad.
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