Friends, first responders pay tribute to missing Guardian Flight medevac crew
Nearly five months after a Guardian Flight medevac plane traveling from Anchorage to the Southeast community of Kake disappeared, several hundred friends and family gathered to honor its three missing crew members.
They arrived from the Lower 48 and Alaska communities statewide, including Kake, to honor a pilot, paramedic and nurse remembered for their dedication to helping others get much-needed medical care.
Standing in the Juneau Douglas High School auditorium, they spoke of a passion that pilot Patrick Coyle, paramedic Margaret Langston and Stacie Rae Morse brought to each flight, including that Jan. 29 day when their plane went missing.
“There is a quotation in the Christian scriptures: The line is, ‘greater love has no person than to lay down their life for their friends.’“ said Rev. Michael Oleksa, listed as an Alaska Federation of Natives elder. “But I submit to you, we’re honoring people who go beyond that. They laid down their life for people they don’t even know. For strangers. It’s even a higher standard than the gospel. So, we stand in awe of such people and we honor all those who have made the same commitment.”
Friends say Coyle, 63, was enjoying a second career after a long stint with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Customs Service doing drug interdiction flights.
“The achievements that we will remember the best are just how generously Pat lived,” said fellow pilot and friend Eric Mangusson. “Yes, Pat could rent out a vehicle as part of his vacation rental and make some money, but if he thought any of his friends or coworkers needed a car, Pat would just give it to them for however long they needed it. Pat loved making banana bread upstairs at the hangar. He would always text those who were around, ‘come and get it,’ but if we couldn’t get up there right away, he would cut out a piece and bring it down to us because hot out of the oven it was just right and it couldn’t wait.”
Langston, 43, was remembered as someone with a “true servant’s heart” by colleague Ben Wagner, who looked to a famed tennis pro Arthur Ashe for some help in describing his friend: “True heroism is remarkably sober and very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass others at whatever cost, but to serve others at whatever cost.”
Wagner continued: “I will miss her dearly, and while my heart is broken, I will continue to follow in her footsteps with a golden standard of humility and humanity that she has set forth. Margaret Langston gave her life in the service of her fellow man, helping others until the very last of her moments on earth doing the job that she loved.”
Several members of the Kake community paid tribute to the crew with Kendall Jackson sharing a short story about Morse, a 30-year-old who was carrying her unborn daughter, Delta Rae.
“I remember one time in particular I was telling Stacie, “I’m just the ambulance driver,’” Jackson recalled. Morse said, “Honey you’re not just anything.”
Search crews spent two months, covering nearly seven square miles of ocean and ocean floor looking for the plane and Juneau-based crew. They retrieved several sections of the plane, but they could not find any of the three Guardian Flight first responders.
“The world is a much better place for having had all three of Pat, Margaret and Stacie in it,” said Guardian Flight nurse Valerie Cassidy. “And there will be a hole left unfilled.”
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