'Angels' remembered at vigil

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Candle flames shined at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Friday night, in remembrance of the three Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crew members who left the ground there for the last time Tuesday.

Pilots, doctors, nurses, firefighters still in uniform, family and friends gathered at the Mountain Flight Service hangar for the candlelight vigil honoring the lives of pilot Tim Benway, 35, and flight nurses Dave Linner, 36, and Jennifer Wells, 30. The three died Tuesday in a plane crash about 3.5 miles north of Rawlins, Wyo. Another crewmember, Tim Baldwin, 35, remains in serious condition in the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.

Stories, laughter, poems, hugs and tears were interspersed throughout the crowd of more than 250 people, who had come to the vigil at the Steamboat Springs Airport, where the crew left Tuesday night en route to pick up a patient at the Carbon County Hospital.

Lynn Maloney read a poem Friday about the night co-workers waited at Yampa Valley Medical Center to hear about the downed plane and the fate of the crew members.

"We gathered and prayed our crew was in a safe place," she read. "God answered back, and it was hard for him to say, he had to take three angels home with him today."

Co-workers remembered talented and caring colleagues who were passionate about their work.

Paula Golden, director of emergency services for Yampa Valley Medical Center, said that on the day of Wells' interview, as soon as she saw the smiling blonde walk through the door, she knew the woman was a great nurse and would be excellent for the flight team. The recently hired Wells was on her second flight with the air ambulance.

"I know many of you hadn't gotten the opportunity or chance to meet her, but if you did, her smile made a connection immediately with your heart," Golden said. "And, I know this world is going to miss her. She was and is an angel."

Flight nurse Dean Zimmerman told stories about flights taken with Benway and talked about his passion for being an air ambulance pilot.

"This tragedy unfortunately will always be tied to his name. I am here to tell you Tim was a good person, a trusted colleague, a son, a brother, a friend to many, but most of all, a friend to me," Zimmerman said.

"He was a person who I respected, trusted and had utmost confidence in to do the right thing no matter what," he said.

Colleagues also fondly remembered Linner, program director for the air ambulance service and a flight nurse, for his sense of humor, practical jokes, care with patients and, above all, his love for his wife, Laurel, and 10-month-old daughter, Abigail.

"His legacy is not one of sadness or disappointment. It is a legacy of laughter and works of care and compassion for his patients and family. That I feel is a legacy we all want to have," flight EMT Jamie Neault said.

Bryan Rickman, West Routt Fire Protection chief and a flight crewmember, said he talked to Linner shortly after he survived a March 2003 air ambulance crash outside Kremmling. He also survived a helicopter crash during his service in the military.

"Most people don't have one airplane crash in life. I don't have anything in the world to worry about," Rickman said Linner told him after the Kremmling crash.

"He had no reservations whatsoever to getting back in that airplane. That is just the kind of person he was."

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