JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — Candlelight vigils were held across Alaska for the three members of an air ambulance flight crew, based in Juneau, who have been missing near Kake since Tuesday.
Family and friends gathered in downtown Juneau at 6:00 p.m. Friday to share stories, memories, hugs and laughs. They paused for a moment of silence at 6:19 p.m., the time the plane's last signal was received on Tuesday.
Before the vigil, Eric Magnusson, a pilot with Guardian Flight Service, said that everyone, including crews from neighboring medevac companies, were coming together and “putting their arms around each other.”
Magnusson shared stories about a tight-knit group that felt like a family. 63-year-old Patrick Coyle was said to be always jovial and quick with a joke in any situation.
Magnusson also told stories about 30-year-old nurse Stacie Morse and 43-year-old paramedic Margaret Langston, both of whom he would regularly fly with. Morse is remembered as a strong go-getter who made boyfriends blush when they’d hunt together and she’d pack out the meat "maybe faster than they were."
Langston, he said, has often been more reserved, and is an absolutely lovely person. "When I knew they were going to be on my crew, no worries, good day to go to work.”
At the Juneau vigil, friends and family explained that sadly there was a fourth person also missing. Morse was pregnant at the time of her disappearance with a daughter named Delta Rae.
The Coast Guard decided to suspend the search Thursday after scouring an area of 240 square nautical miles
Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, said troopers would now take the lead but it would not be an active search. Instead, the three people are considered missing persons until, and if, new information is discovered.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Bureau are now formulating a plan to look for the plane and analyze how it disappeared.
Clint Johnson, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said that crews would probably arrive in the area sometime next week and would look for clear weather windows. A structural engineer will be brought to Alaska, armed with a special piece of equipment rarely used in the state, to detect sound from an underwater acoustic beacon.
Johnson said as soon as the device hits water, it begins transmitting. The lithium batteries are expected to last around 30 days, giving the NTSB investigators time to conduct their work.