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Former Mass. residents killed in crash of medevac helicopter

DURANGO, Colo. -- Two of three crew members killed when a medical evacuation helicopter crashed on the way to a logging accident in southwestern Colorado were former residents of Massachusetts.

The victims were the pilot, Jim Saler, 40, and emergency medical workers Bill Podmayer, 49, and Scott Hyslop, 33, according to a statement Friday from Mercy Medical Center, the Durango hospital where the men worked. Hyslop and Podmayer both had moved to Colorado from Massachusetts.

''This is a tight-knit community and many of us knew these men both professionally and personally," the statement said. ''We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life; our only solace is knowing that these brave men died doing what they loved to do: helping others in need."

No patients were on the Tri-State Careflight helicopter, which crashed Thursday while preparing to land in a wooded area 30 miles west of Durango. The crew was called after a logger suffered a broken leg and head injuries in the San Juan National Forest, Montezuma County undersheriff Dave Hart said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.

Podmayer, known for organizing weekend outings for hospital staff, worked in the intensive care unit until becoming a senior flight nurse when the helicopter service was launched in Durango last year. ''He lived for that job," Podmayer's wife, Judy Hill, said in a statement.

Friends said that Podmayer's uplifting nature was infectious and that his love for skiing and rafting attracted him to Durango from Massachusetts.

Saler, a married father with three daughters, was a 20-year Army veteran who told friends he preferred flying around the jagged peaks of southwestern Colorado rather than around Baghdad. His sister, Lisa Tachibana of Kalaheo, Hawaii, said Saler returned from a seven-month stint in Iraq in March 2004.

Hyslop, a paramedic with Durango Fire and Rescue, had a five-month-old son with his wife, Elizabeth. He and his wife had moved to Colorado from Boston. Friends said he was an avid backcountry skier, ice climber, and cyclist.

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