Brian Jopek/Lakeland Times PHOTOS
A ceremony honoring the three men who died in the Spirit helicopter crash a year ago took place April 26 at the Spirit Hangar at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff. Pictured is the memorial stone to be placed on the campus of Howard Young Medical Center honoring Rico Caruso of Hazelhurst, Gregory Rosenthal of Mosinee and Klint Mitchell of Watersmeet, Mich.
Ernie Rosenthal, father of Greg Rosenthal, speaks during a ceremony April 26 at the Spirit hangar on the grounds of Howard Young Medical Center marking the first anniversary of the Spirit 2 crash.
4/30/2019 7:30:00 AM Spirit 2 crew remembered Ceremony marked the first anniversary of fatal crash
Friday marked one year since an air ambulance crash in the town of Hazelhurst took the lives of Spirit Air crew members Rico Caruso, Greg Rosenthal and Klint Mitchell. To honor the memory of the fallen, a 40-minute ceremony was held Friday morning in the Spirit Air hangar on the grounds of the Howard Young Medical Center.
Between 150 and 200 people gathered for the ceremony; they included family members of Caruso, Rosenthal and Mitchell, fellow Spirit Air members, members of the local emergency services and law enforcement community and members of the general public.
In his remarks to open the ceremony, the event's emcee, Matt Thompson, EMS outreach coordinator for Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport, said "that's what this is - it's a gathering."
"We had our memorial last May 3," he said. "Today, we want to celebrate the lives of the crew and really honor their memory. We like to call it a remembrance."
Each of the speakers touched on different ways Caruso, Rosenthal and Mitchell impacted the lives of others, whether it was family, co-workers or the patients they were charged to care for.
Dave Berube, a clinical supervisor for Spirit's northern region, was the first of seven speakers.
"I want to offer heartfelt thanks for everyone gathered here today," he said. "It's awe inspiring. It's a real testament to these three guys. Forever remembering these three guys who were not only sons and brothers, but also fathers."
He closed his remarks by paraphrasing Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" fame.
"There are three ways to ultimate success," Berube said. "The keys to this are be kind, be kind and be kind. This reflection echoes the three guys that we're here to be reflective on and have a remembrance of because their integrity was built on those three keys of success."
Ascension's Northern Region president Sandy Anderson said she was asked to speak about the effect the loss of Caruso, Rosenthal and Mitchell has had on Howard Young Medical Center "and its family and how have they have inspired us to go forward."
Ted Ryan, director of Spirit Air, said a year ago, "we had a devastating loss."
"But we continue to move forward and we continue to move forward with Rico, Greg and Klint in mind," he said.
'Right there's Klint!'
Spirit regional manager Charlie Kotke spoke of the grieving process and how since the crash there have been constant reminders of Caruso, Rosenthal and Mitchell.
He also touched on how even though they're gone there are plenty of things to look forward to and he mentioned Facebook posts of their family members featuring their children.
"We need to grieve but we need to celebrate," Kotke said. "There's celebration in each of the families."
Memories, he said, talking about them is "the stuff that lives on."
At one point during Kotke comments, Mitchell's young daughter made a loud noise.
"Right there's Klint!" Kotke said with a smile. "The mannerisms, the faces and watching those kids grow up."
In closing, he asked those in the audience to "continue to incorporate the work of these heroes in your life and pay it forward."
"Because certainly, we have some big shoes to fill," Kotke said.
A few minutes later, at the helipad just outside the closed hangar doors, a patient was loaded onto Spirit 1.
Another of Spirit's regional managers, PJ Monday, noted the irony in that occurring at that moment during the ceremony.
"Having Spirit One lift right now," he said. "It's perfect for today. The smell of the fuel and everything in there ... that's what they live for."
Ernie Rosenthal, the father of Greg Rosenthal, thanked everyone for attending and for all the support his family has received.
"Whether it's through prayers, cards, emails, in person, donations, whatever," he said. "But we, Diane and I, strongly believe by the grace of God in his mercy, with that support, we made it through this year."
A memorial stone to be placed at a location yet to be determined on the Howard Young campus was blessed by Father Aaron DeVett, pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church.
Thompson announced at the end of the ceremony the benefit fund for the families of Caruso, Rosenthal and Mitchell administered by the Howard Young Foundation has provided nearly $151,000 in support.
Ascension spokesman Tom Weaver said the fund will remain open through the end of May and to donate, people may visit the foundation's website at howardyoungfoundation.org or call the office at 715-439-4005.
Gifts may also be mailed to Howard Young Foundation, P.O. Box 470, Woodruff, WI 54568. Checks should be made payable to Howard Young Foundation - Spirit.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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