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Medical Helicopter Crew Praised for Dedicated Service

WOODRUFF – Friday’s memorial service for the three men who lost their lives in a medical helicopter crash more than a week ago drew some 1,200 people and included a fly-over of six medical transport helicopters.

Gov. Scott Walker was also there to read his proclamation calling for the lowering of the U.S. Flag and Wisconsin state flag to half staff Saturday in honor of Rico Caruso, Klint Mitchell and Greg Rosenthal who died April 26.

Representatives from at least 50 emergency medical services, air medical transport and public safety agencies from across the state and elsewhere paid their respects.

The service at Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff included the playing of the “final call,” the message that went out to transport agencies announcing the loss of the Spirit 2 crew.

It read in part:

“This is a Spirit Communications Center sounding a last call for Spirit 2: pilot Rico Caruso, flight nurse Klint Mitchell and flight paramedic Greg Rosenthal. May God rest their souls. This is Spirit Communication Center sounding a last call for Spirit 2: pilot Rico Caruso, flight nurse Klint Mitchell and flight paramedic Greg Rosenthal. God speed to Heaven’s open door. Spirit Communications Center, clear.”

EMS outreach coordinator for Spirit, Matt Thompson said it’s been a very trying week, but the community support from here and across the country has meant a lot to those directly affected by the tragedy.

“This has been a rough week for our crew. One of the most tragic things that could possibly happen occurred to our team. We are working through the process right now in honoring our three members of this memorial today.

“We have received messages from across the country. It has meant a lot to our team. It really brings their spirits up. We just can’t thank everyone enough for the outpouring of support that we have received during this time.”

Thompson said being a member of the medical hospital crew requires special knowledge, compassion and dedication.

“It is something that takes a special kind of individual to truly do, day in and day out. These folks take their patients from the time they see them to the time they hand them off to the tertiary center.

“And it’s not an easy job. When they are in the helicopter they are working with the patient from the time they lift to the time they deliver that patient. It’s not just a simple ride. And it takes a special individual and education to do that work.

“The three folks that we lost had that desire of patient care,” Thompson continued. “They truly exemplified everything that we want in Spirit, and that our community needs when it comes to patient care. They lived it, they loved it, they breathed it. They truly did.

“We never want to forget their service and the sacrifices they gave.”

They live-streamed the service, potentially reaching thousands more of viewers. It is available for viewing on Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport’s Facebook page.

Officials from Spirit Air and Air Methods, which operates medical air services for Ascension, and family members, remembered the deceased with personal stories of dedication and strong character.

“No doubt these men have saved thousands of lives,” remarked PJ Monday, regional manager of Spirit.

EMS Honor Guard Association members from Wisconsin and Minnesota took part in the memorial service, including serving as honor guard.

Afterwards, the community support could be seen nearby at North Country Montessori along Highway J in Woodruff where the children waved and shouted out, “Thank you!” to the departing medical and public safety personnel.

Montessori director Candice Henderson explains that they wanted to have the children show their appreciation for the various agencies.

“We were telling the children when we made the signs that we wanted to show our support to the community and all the firefighters, police officers, the men and women that work so hard to keep us safe ... the nurses, the doctors, all the EMS staff,” she said “We wanted to do something special to say thank you to them because they are the ones who keep us safe and help us when we are hurt.”

The fly-over at the end of the service included the following helicopters: Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport, Lifelink III, Aspirus Medevac, UW-Medflight, Flight for Life, and Gunderson AIR. They stationed at Lakeland Airport in Arbor Vitae prior to the fly-over.

Local Ascension Howard Young Medical Center spokesman Tom Weaver said the Helping Hands fund for the families of the Spirit team has raised $55,000 so far. To donate, visit the foundation’s website at howardyoungfoundation.org or call 715-439-4005.

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