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Sunday, November 7, 2010

NEWS - 'Flying Samaritans' Mexico plane crash an update

Below is a letter written by Victor Jones to Susan Smith the president of the Flying Samaritans International, President of the Playas de Rosarito chapter of the Flying Samaritans. Information courtesy of Rosarito Town Crier.
To Susan Smith,

Since that fateful Friday a couple of weeks ago, I've had the opportunity to visit with and to speak with many of you about what happened. Many of the same questions keep coming up so I will take a minute or two to tell you what I know.

The outpouring of condolences was truly, overwhelming not only from within our organization but from without. Folks from "Los Medicos Voladares", "LIGA", and "Angel Flight",  people who read about it in the paper or heard about it on the radio all over the country, all shared in our sense of loss.  Even the Governor of Baja sent a letter expressing his country's sense of loss and their gratitude for the services we've provided over the years.

I, along with other Sams, attended the memorials these last two weeks. (I was only able to make it to three of the four as two of them were on the same day and many miles apart.) A couple of things became very clear to me: 1) the caliber of people who participate in the Sams is that of leaders and stand-outs within their communities, 2) while many of us take for granted what we do since we've done it for so long, it is truly an extraordinary enterprise in which we participate, and 3) the impact we have as individuals, and as an organization, while contributing to our fellow human beings, as Flying Sams reaches far beyond what many of us ever realize or would expect. 
Here are some of the questions I've been getting and my responses. You may react differently and may have different responses as well.

What do we know about the crash?
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It occurred on Friday, October 22 at about 3:00 in the afternoon while the crew was on its way to the San Quintin area for a clinic to be run on Saturday. They departed the Ensenada airport and within 10 minutes they had crashed. We do not know why, or what happened, or how. There have been many theories put forth, but without having been there, no one knows for sure.  We know it was a tragic loss and was an accident, but nothing more.

What happens next?
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The Mexican authorities are investigating the crash, the crash site, and all the information they can gather that might lead to any insight as to what occurred.  They will share what they find with our US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the wreckage will be moved to San Diego where it will be examined to determine what may have happened.

How have we responded?
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Both the Gold Coast chapter and the International Board have impaneled committees to see if there is anything else we may be able to do to prevent this kind of thing from recurring. The committees will work together to share their insights.  To our knowledge, all the flight operations were well within normal parameters and all precautions that would normally have been taken were being exercised at the time. We will work to see if setting standards higher than those required by law and by normal operations might help keep us safer. I don't know that they will, since we already have requirements higher than the legal minimums. We will however, exercise every opportunity to make sure we are as safe as possible. We are working with another organization, the "Medicos Voladares"  (Flying Doctors) on this issue. They, by coincidence, had just formed a committee in September to examine exactly the same issues. 

One observation shared by members of another organization that had a fatal crash 10 years ago, was that many of their members had not "gotten over" the emotional trauma of that event.  They went on to share that those folks had "bottled it up" and did not share their feelings.  For those of you who were not able to attend any of the funerals, and still feel upset by what happened, they, and I, strongly encourage you to talk to someone about it.  Sharing the emotions with someone else is a very real human need and helps all of us work through times of great emotional stress.  Talk to someone, anyone. If you don't feel comfortable with anyone else, give me a call. 

This email is being sent to only active members so that we don't upset the inactive members of the Sams.  If you want to share it with someone else, feel free to pass it on.

The events of the last couple of weeks have sharpened my focus on the Sams and what we need to do to move forward.  The conversations and interactions I've had, have made me realize how truly great each and every one of you are in your own unique way.  I have been humbled to my very core by my association with every one of you.

Victor Jones