PAIN LACKS SIMPLE CURE
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The families and friends of six victims of two Hawaii Air Ambulance crashes gathered yesterday at Kailua Beach Park for a memorial service. Here, a group of canoes headed out for an offshore ceremony. CLICK FOR LARGE
Air ambulance crash, one year later
Families and friends of three victims gather to recall and console
It's been one year since a medical transport plane crashed on Maui, and the wounds haven't closed for many families of the victims.
One year ago Thursday, pilot Peter Miller, flight nurse Brien Eisaman and paramedic Marlena Yomes died after a Hawaii Air Ambulance twin-engine Cessna 414 crashed into a car dealership in Maui.
"Closure is tough because there's always something there to remind you," said Eisaman's best friend, Nate Luck, who flew in from California.
Families and friends of the three victims, as well as three victims of another Hawaii Air Ambulance crash in 2004, gathered yesterday at Kailua Beach Park to remember their loved ones' sacrifice.
"For the families, they never stopped hurting," said co-organizer Randall Cummings, a former Hawaii Air Ambulance pilot and friend of Eisaman and Miller. "We wanted them to know we still support them and that we haven't forgotten."
Yesterday's service was joined by firefighters and former Hawaiian Air Ambulance personnel.
The fact that Thursday's helicopter crash in Kauai happened exactly one year after the Maui crash did not escape families yesterday. They prayed for the families of the Kauai crash victims, because they said healing will not be easy.
"It's eerie," said Eisaman's sister, Lisa Dyer. "It is horrible to have this happen to another family."
Dyer and sister Heather Villington flew to Hawaii from California for the ceremony on Thursday, the actual anniversary of the crash. Villington said the last year has been difficult.
"The first of everything afterward was really hard -- the first Christmas, the first birthday," Villington said.
Dina Kanakaokai lost her brother, paramedic Mandy Shiraki, in the Jan. 31, 2004, Hawaii Air Ambulance crash on the Big Island. Pilot Ron Laubacher and paramedic Daniel Villiaros also died in the crash.
"It's hard to look at your parents," Kanakaokai said. "Being a mother myself, that's the worst thing that could ever happen."
It was the first time she was able to greet and hug members of the other families. She said it was a way for her to close some wounds and see how other families have coped with their loss.
The Miller family created a nonprofit organization to continue the work the pilot did when he was alive. Miller was an avid surfer and often gave his surf gear away to Kailua children, his parents said.
The organization provides underprivileged youth with subsidized ocean sports gear and sponsorships to out-of-state competitions, as well as holds annual surf contests in Kailua. They also formed a Web site, petermillerfoundation.com.
"His work is mainly being carried out by the many young people in Hawaii," said father Emmett Miller.
Cummings said because of the nature of their work, each of the victims were selfless people.
"They really seemed to make the most of their lives," he said. "That's what I was able to take away, and since then I've tried to be a better person."