Community mourns loss of missing Guardian Flight colleagues

Friends and family of the missing Guardian Flight crew members sit surrounded by community members at a remembrance ceremony at Overstreet Park on Friday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The crew of a medevac plane went missing last week. The news hit Juneau’s medical community particularly hard.

Pilot Patrick Coyle, 63, paramedic Margaret Langston, 40, and nurse Stacie Rae Morse, 30, took off from Anchorage Tuesday to pick up a patient in need of a medical evacuation in Kake.

But the plane never arrived.

Hundreds of people braved the cold to attend a candlelight remembrance by the whale statue in downtown Juneau’s Overstreet Park Friday evening. Many wore uniforms from various first responder agencies. Friends and family of the crew members spoke, thanking the community for its support.

Guardian Flight pilot Eric Magnusson is a colleague of the missing crew members and has worked with medical evacuation companies out of Juneau for more than 20 years.

Speaking earlier in the day Friday, Magnusson said he’s never lost a colleague before this.

“It’s a job I love. It’s a job I get very passionate about, and I’m glad to be doing it,” Magnusson said. “I sense that same passion in my co-workers.”

Magnusson said this week’s events have been stressful for everyone at Guardian Flight.

The company performs medical evacuations across the state. Magnusson said they do about 2,500 flights annually.

In Juneau, they have a staff of about eight pilots and six nurse and paramedic teams.

Guardian crews remain grounded across the state Friday as the company gives employees time to process grief.

“We know that we’ve all been distracted and are, you know, experiencing a lot of grief over the loss of our co-workers,” Magnusson said. “We are determined to plan through and talk through how to get individuals back on the job, but allow them to take their time to grieve and not come back distracted.”

Magnusson said he and his colleagues are working to get their operations back on line and get back to doing the work they love soon.

Morse was also a nurse in the emergency department and critical care unit at Bartlett Regional Hospital. In a statement, hospital officials said Morse was “respected, highly regarded and most of all, greatly missed.”

She was also about 27 weeks pregnant, according to the Anchorage Daily News.