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Chopper Team Mourns Dead Crew

The surviving members of a medical helicopter flight team went to Northwest Texas Hospital Saturday to get medical equipment needed for resumption of flights on Monday.

Three fellow crew members were killed along with a small child in a crash Friday morning during heavy fog about 85 miles northwest of Amarillo.

"There are already people up there putting together bags and IV solution,'' program coordinator Charlene Seale said Saturday. "They have already decided who is going to be the first crew to go out. We're all scared because it's risky, but Lauren and Terry and Ed wouldn't want us to stop.''

Flight nurse Lauren Stone, 30; flight paramedic Terry Griffith, 35; and pilot Ed Sanneman, 33, died in the crash near the community of Coldwater, Texas, about three miles south of the Oklahoma-Texas border.

The helicopter left Amarillo about 3:25 a.m. Friday for Boise City, Okla., where 4-month-old Kathy Esparza was suffering from breathing problems at a hospital. Boise City is about 100 miles north-northwest of Amarillo.

Fog forced the crew to land about 17 miles south of its destination. A ground ambulance met the BO-105 Aerican Eurocopter in a field along U.S. 385 to transfer the baby.

The craft took off shortly after 6 a.m., flying along a line of power lines, but the crew wasn't heard from again. Four and a half hours later, when the fog lifted, a burned patch of land and debris was found in a field less than a mile away.

The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation, but said it would have no comment on the accident until Monday.

By Saturday morning, the chain link fence surrounding the helipad the Lifestar helicopter departed from was covered with flowers, ribbons and posters telling the crew to "fly to the angels.''
"It is a family,'' Seale said. "For us, a little piece of us died personally three times yesterday and another little piece of us died professionally ... when that little baby died.''

But the remaining eight crew members and two pilots are working through their grief with the support of one another and their families.

Dealing with the reality of his mother's death has been hard for Stone's 8-year-old son, Ben, said Deannie Downey, who has lived with Stone for five years.

The 8-year-old asked Downey if his mother was a hero.

"Buddy, your mom is more than a hero,'' Downey said she responded. "He accepts it, but he doesn't really comprehend it.''

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