ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It’s a new day for REACT crews at Rockford Health System. They unveiled their new helicopter six months after the old one crashed, killing all three crew members on board. It’s a celebration of a new journey in the skies.
REACT crew members describe today as being bittersweet, as they took the first ceremonial flight on a new helicopter, which has a few extra special features in memory of their three fallen angels.
REACT crews are celebrating a new beginning with the EC 135 Chopper. It’s the 2nd helicopter since the program started in 1987. Crew members spent the last few days testing out its new medical equipment and technology, including an auto-pilot feature and nigh vision. The new helicopter also isn’t complete without its three stars which symbolize Karen Hollis, Jim Dillow, and Andy Oleson, the three REACT crew members who were killed in a helicopter crash this past winter. Flight nurse Tony Rehberg says that’s the best feature, to know those members will always ride with them.
“To lose crew members like that is heartbreaking, we all know the risk we’re taking everyday. We come to work to do our job, to be able to do what we do, takes a special personality,” Rehberg said.
REACT crews will start flying in the new helicopter as early as next week. We’re told flight nurses still have to get familiar with the new equipment.
You can check out the new helicopter during the 4th of July parade next week. It will be near the Sinissippi Bike Path at Nicholas Conservatory, and you’ll even get a chance to meet the crew from 12:30-2:30 p.m.