, Corbin, KY

June 6, 2014

Air Evac 109 loss to be remembered this weekend

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

For many first responders in southeastern Kentucky, this very day, Friday, will be a tough one in their hearts and minds.

It was a year ago — Thursday, June 6, 2013 — that three members of an Air Evac Lifeteam medical helicopter died when their chopper crashed and burst into flames in the parking lot of Paces Creek Elementary School in Clay County.

The pilot was Eddy Wayne Sizemore, 61, of London. He was a former Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Also on board was paramedic Herman Lee Dobbs, 40, also of London.

And the flight nurse aboard was Jesse Lee Jones, 28, of Pineville.

The Air Evac 109 helicopter was headed back to a helipad off U.S. 421 in Manchester, located near the elementary school, after transporting a patient to Saint Joseph-London hospital.

They almost made it back home.

On the first anniversary of the tragedy, two events will be held this weekend to remember the three who perished.

The first one is Friday night, when the sun sets.

That’s when a candlelight vigil organized by Clay County EMS will take place at dark, at the crash site near the elementary school. Several leaders from Manchester and Clay County are expected to speak at the vigil.

The second one is Saturday, beginning at noon, at the Middlesboro Airport, and ending at the Air Evac 109 base in Manchester, located near the crash site.

On Saturday, Knox County EMS will hold a free motorcycle and top-down Jeep ride, called the “Wheels & Rotors Ride.”

Gerald Baker, the Deputy Chief of the Knox County EMS, noted Thursday the afternoon trip through five counties will definitely be a ride of remembrance.

“We’ll start at the airport in Middlesboro at 12 Noon, and if it all works well, we’ll visit the residences of the three men who died, starting with Jesse Jones in Pineville. Then they’ll go to the Air Evac base at the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport, and then continue to Mr. Sizemore’s residence in Laurel County. After that, we’ll ride by the farm that Lee Dobbs had in Laurel County, and from Lee’s farm, the procession will go to the Air Evac base in Manchester around 4 p.m. There, they’ll meet with the families of those who died, as well as get together with other Air Evac personnel, other first responders, and members of the community,” he said during a phone interview.

Baker mentioned that donations to the Wheels & Rotors Ride will benefit Supporting Heroes, a volunteer organization based in the Louisville area which has members throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

“They’re one of the best organizations I’ve ever dealt with. … after the crash last year, this group’s members sat down with the EMS units on working out details on the funerals, the honor guards, the last calls — they handled everything. All we had to do was more or less assist them. … They were absolutely excellent to work with,” he stated.

A year ago, first responders in the Tri-County region — and nationwide — took the loss of three of their own in the line of duty extremely hard.

Baker admitted that the past week at Knox County EMS has been “sort of solemn here.”

“About two weeks ago, the first responders were reliving it, especially those of us who knew Lee Dobbs. We grew to love Lee and he was a brother to us. And even seeing some of the posts and messages online, it’s been like reliving the accident all over again. That’s understandable. When an EMS or first responder loses a co-worker, it’s unthinkable. Some of the crews that were working today at Knox County EMS worked with Lee about a year ago. One of his partners came in and worked, and he didn’t say much, but you could see Lee’s death affected him,” he pointed out.

More information on Saturday’s “Wheels & Rotors Ride” can be obtained by calling the Knox County EMS Office at (606) 546-9722.

In a post on their Facebook site last week, Air Evac Lifeteam 109’s base in Manchester announced everyone is invited to attend both memorial events this weekend.

“We appreciate the time, effort and thought put into coordinating each of these events. This gives our crews personal time for dealing with this tragedy. We are really blessed to have such passionate and caring individuals in our lives. May God bless you all. Please keep Jesse, Lee and Eddy’s families, our crews, and our EMS and first responder families in your thoughts and prayers,” the post said.