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Helicopter Nurses, Pilot ‘Incredible People’ Airlift Team That Crashed Into Puget Sound Remembered At Seattle Memorial Service

SUNDAY, SEPT. 17, 1995

They were the kind of people who never looked first before going to another’s aid. They gave their lives to serve others, colleagues and friends of three members of a medical airlift team killed in a crash said Saturday.

“Your loved ones were incredible people,” the Rev. Steve Pace told the thousands gathered for a memorial service at Boeing Field, his voice drowned out by the roar of jets flying through heavy fog overhead.

Two nurses were killed when their Airlift Northwest helicopter crashed into Puget Sound Monday. The pilot remains missing and presumed dead, believed to be strapped into the wreckage that sank in 700 feet of water.

The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined.

Speaking before 3,000 mourners, the victims’ friends choked back tears as they described the loss of pilot Lee Bothwell, 42, of Puyallup, and nurses Marna Fleetwood, 40, of Brier, and Amy Riebe, 41, of Seattle.

“We’ve gone back to work knowing any one of us could have been on that aircraft. We’ve had to cope with our grief and our fears,” Airlift Northwest chief flight nurse Deborah Sampson said.

“Marna had such kindness and compassion. She was a gifted, sophisticated nurse who made it look so easy,” Sampson said.

Fleetwood joined Airlift Northwest in 1984. She is survived by her husband, Mike, and two children, ages 5 and 2.

“From Amy, we got integrity and drive - she was the hardest worker I’ve ever met. She had boundless energy and she inspired us all to a higher standard,” Sampson continued. “She found goodness in everyone she met.”

Riebe joined Airlift Northwest in 1988, left in 1991 to pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner, and returned to Airlift Northwest in June. She is survived by her husband, Fred, and two stepchildren, ages 13 and 10.

Bothwell joined Airlift Northwest in July, after retiring from the Army with 15 years of Army Medivac experience. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and three children, ages 23, 18 and 16.

Dr. Ronald Lemire of Children’s Hos pital and Medical Center added some levity to the somber service by telling stories about Airlift Northwest and the crazy, funny things that happen at the worst of times.

He described a nurse who permitted a patient’s beloved dog to come along for the ride. He alluded to the bruised pride of a doctor who slipped in goose poop while getting out of a helicopter and fell, breaking his arm. And he told of a nurse who vomited during every flight, but who wouldn’t want to do anything else.

The Italian-made Agusta Aerospace 109 took off shortly before dawn Monday from Boeing Field on a short flight to Bainbridge Island to transport a woman in labor to a Seattle hospital. The woman later delivered her baby in an ambulance en route to a Bremerton hospital.

The copter crashed into Puget Sound, broke into pieces and sank in 700 feet of water off Bainbridge Island.

A salvage expert is trying to recover the main body of the wreckage.

An examination of some wreckage found floating indicates all four main rotor blades were still attached to the aircraft and spinning when the helicopter hit the water, said Debra Eckrote, in charge of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

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