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React helicopter victims honored with escort through Ogle County

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 4:40 p.m. CDT
Caption
A line of fire trucks stretches across the bridge over the Rock River in Oregon Friday morning during a procession to Rockford Memorial Hospital for the three REACT helicopter crash victims. Photo by Chris Johnson
Caption
Emergency personnel gather for a briefing before a procession Friday morning to honor the REACT helicopter crash victims. Photo by Chris Johnson

First Responders from across Ogle County and the rest of northern Illinois paid tribute Dec. 14 to the three members of the React crew who died four days earlier when their helicopter crashed on a run to pick up a patient.

Firefighters and EMS personnel from at least 30 area departments, along with police from several departments, escorted the three hearses in a procession from Oregon to Rockford.

The hearses carried the remains of helicopter pilot Andrew Olesen, 65, Rockford, and flight nurses Jim Dillow, 40, Shannon, and Karen Hollis, 48, Rockford.

Stillman Valley Fire Chief Chad Hoefle, who organized the procession, said it was a way for the three to complete their last mission.

"We're allowing the React crew that went down the other day to make their final mission. It's important for all of us who worked with them to take part in this event," Hoefle said Friday morning as the procession prepared to leave the Ogle County morgue in Oregon enroute to the React hangar in Rockford.

Family members of the three also rode in the procession.

Cars lined River Road and onlookers stood at solemn attention as the procession of more than 50 vehicles, with lights flashing, wended its way north.

Oleson, Dillow, and Hollis were on their way to pick up a critically ill patient at Mendota Hospital Dec. 10, when the helicopter encountered bad weather shortly after 8 p.m.

Officials said Oleson had radioed his intention to turn back when dispatch lost contact with him. The helicopter crashed in a cornfield in Lee County.

"The helicopter crews are really the heroes when they come in when we need them," Hoefle said. "When something like this happens it affects everybody who's involved."

After a brief memorial at the hangar, the procession, joined along the way by additional fire departments and ambulance crews, departed for the individual funeral homes.

Individual funeral services were held for each of the three has been held in the last few days.

A public memorial service for all three was planned for Dec. 19 at Rock Valley College.

Click on the Video link to watch some of the procession an hear Hoefle comment.

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