Enthusiasm, passion, selflessness, commitment and camaraderie were just some of the words used to describe the lives of Tim Benway, Dave Linner and Jenny Wells.
But perhaps the most common sentiment expressed by the about 200 people attending a memorial dedication at Yampa Valley Medical Center early Monday evening was an acknowledgement of the sacrifices of the three Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crew members who lost their lives in the line of duty in January 2005.
Friends, colleagues, family and community members gathered Monday to share memories and say thanks while a Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue ladder truck lifted a white sheet to unveil a statue and garden that will serve as a memorial near the entrance to the hospital's emergency room.
"While this dedication remembers a very sad event and the loss of three of our colleagues and family members, the purpose of the memorial is to remember the positive and selfless work that these three individuals performed every day," said Karl Gills, chief executive officer of Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Benway, Linner and Wells died Jan. 11, 2005, when the air ambulance crashed in wintry weather near Rawlins Municipal Airport in Rawlins, Wyo. The Steamboat Springs-based crew was en route to Rawlins to transport a car-crash victim to a hospital.
Fellow crew member Tim Baldwin sustained serious injuries but survived the crash. It took rescue workers nearly four hours to find the plane wreckage.
The memorial statue incorporates universal symbols of remembrance and mutual respect, and it represents spiritual freedom, sculptor Jim Selbe said. The names of Benway, Linner and Wells are inscribed inside the three legs of the statue. Pink peonies, Wells' favorite flower, were planted in the garden beneath it.
"They were amazing people, but they were doing what they loved," said former colleague Kristina Reavis, who traveled from the Colorado Springs area to attend the memorial with her 18-month-old daughter, Elena.
Reavis was on the flight crew before her daughter was born, and despite the risk, she plans to return to the skies when her daughter is older.
Family members reiterated the importance of the team's work as air ambulance crew members but said they were saddened by the price that their loved ones paid.
"What parent would encourage their child to do that?" asked Larry Benway, Tim's father. "But that wasn't our choice. They did it because they were enjoyed by the challenge and to help other people."
Linner's wife, Laurel, also spoke and said she hopes air ambulance service will return to the Yampa Valley.
She said she hopes her daughter, 28-month-old Abigail, someday will appreciate the sacrifice her father made and understand how much he loved her.
Nancy Stevens said that at age 5, her sister Jenny Wells began developing a lifelong passion for taking care of others, starting with her siblings. Nancy and her twin brother were air lifted to a Denver hospital shortly after they were born. They were in the hospital for three weeks; Jenny stayed close by and dreamed of becoming a nurse.
"She was always sure of her choice and let nothing get in her way of being a nurse, and especially a flight nurse," Stevens said.
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