ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It’s a tragedy medical professionals across the Stateline and country still can’t quite process. It’s been one year since Rockford Health System’s REACT helicopter crashed while responding to a call, killing three people on board.
The sound of bells rung all through the halls of Rockford Memorial Hospital this afternoon in honor of REACT flight crew members Karen Hollis, Jim Dillow, and Pilot Andy Olesen; all lost their lives in the line of duty one year ago today.
“We had a 20-year history of air ambulance with complete safety and no major incidents and so this is the thing you don’t expect to happen,” said Dan Parod, Senior VP at Rockford Memorial.
“They were excellent clinicians, yet they really were compassionate,” said Sue Schreier, Rockford Memorial Chief Nurse Executive.
Some people say “time heals all wounds” but the gaping hole left in the hearts of the Rockford Memorial Hospital staff when the crew’s aircraft went down in a field in Lee County may take more time to heal.
“Thinking about the stories that I knew about these individuals and especially Karen, I probably knew her better, she had a lot of stories about the different patients she would take care of and just thinking about that was a challenge,” said Schreier, who knew both Karen and Jim.
Schreier says the rest of the REACT team felt there was only one thing to do after losing their dear friends.
“There’s certainly a tremendous hole of losing , but the crew…just the way that they felt that they needed to honor their lost team members was to continue.”
The hospital debuted a new helicopter this past summer that pays tribute to the REACT crew members. The National Transportation Safety Board is still putting together the report but there is no word on when that report will be completed. The REACT crew wanted to remember and mourn in private today, a very hard day for them considering many of the team worked with the fallen three for many years.