Three Good Men


July 3, 2005 - The Durango Herald


People are not defined by their deaths. Life is too complex to be seen accurately through a moment at its end.


Nonetheless, there are times when, like a perfect silhouette or a prized snapshot, the manner of a death puts that person's qualities into high relief. Friday's crash of the CareFlight helicopter was such a case.


For whatever else we know about pilot Jim Saler, flight nurse Bill Podmayer and paramedic Scott Hyslop, one truth will be forever linked to their names: These men died on a mission of mercy. They were killed on their way to help someone.


Their deaths did not define them, but their intent speaks volumes. It was their mission on that flight to help a man they almost certainly did not know and could not have named. They did not weigh who or what he was. It is doubtful they even thought to ask. They just went.


In the days and weeks to come we will learn more about how this crash occurred. It could have been mechanical a problem, a design flaw or one of a number of other possibilities. It is important for the safety of other flights that whatever can be known of its causes be determined, but it will not alter the underlying truth of this tragedy.


We will also learn more about the men themselves, their families, and their passions. We will hear more about the "Bill and Wally" events that Podmayer and his friend Paul Gibson put on. We will get to know more about Saler's life as a pilot and his service to his country. And we will find out more about Hyslop's family, and his love of adventure and the outdoors.


All that is fitting. These were good men with whom we shared this community, and who in turn loved it.


But at least in this life, we will never know why it was they had to die - why them, why then, why that way. We will never have a satisfactory explanation for losing them.


What we do have is the sure knowledge that Jim Saler, Bill Podmayer and Scott Hyslop died doing what was right, and that they made helping others their life's work. We can take pride in a nation that produces such men, and in the fact that these three called Durango home.


Like their lives, the loss to this community their death represents cannot be defined by one brief moment.