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Our View: Community offers support

“How much more can this community take?”

That question was asked in the office, at the gym, in the school and on the ski lift as word spread through Steamboat Springs on Wednesday about yet another tragic accident that had taken three lives.

On Tuesday night, Dave Linner, Tim Benway, Jenny Wells and Tim Baldwin took off into the night sky bound for Rawlins, Wyo. When their air ambulance plane inexplicably crashed, just a few miles shy of its destination, three of the people on board died. The survivor, Tim Baldwin, used his cellular phone to call for help.

The sound of his voice, and with it the hope that one life still could be saved, drew dozens of people from four towns — firefighters, medics, search and rescue workers, pilots, police — into a frigid, snowy night to look for their professional brethren. In the dark, fighting cold, snow and gusts of wind, they were looking for a small, white plane in a vast, snow-covered expanse of prairie, an effort akin to finding a needle in a haystack. When Baldwin’s phone died and his voice disappeared after an hour and a half, they kept at the frustrating search until, after four cold, sobering hours, the plane was located.

For family and friends in Steamboat and beyond, knowing that three people died doing what they loved is of only slight consolation. We want them to have lived doing what they love, and that things didn’t happen that way seems brutally unfair.

What might be of more consolation is knowing that, by all accounts, each of those killed reveled in the opportunities they were given in their too short time — including the opportunity that night to help someone in need.

A friend of Tim Benway’s said the pilot chose his job and lived his life driven by a desire to have a purpose in society and in his community. “He’d push you to live and enjoy your life, which is rare. Most times, people don’t have enough energy for themselves. He had enough energy for everyone,” John Hanley said.

Flight nurse Jenny Wells, her mother said, knew from age 6 that she would make helping others her life’s work. When the opportunity to become a flight nurse arose, she jumped at it.

Dave Linner’s friends said he chose Steamboat as his permanent home and was dedicated to his job as program director of the air ambulance service, and a newer job as a firefighter. His love of helping people extended beyond his patients and to his co-workers, willingly taking younger employees under his wing.

Their deaths leave a hole in the tight-knit fabric of our community, and they seem all the more tragic because, in such a small town, the web of friends and friends-of-friends leaves few people personally untouched by their loss.

That the plane crash came in such close proximity to the deaths of Travis Taber, Ashley Stamp and Michael Gebhardt in equally unfortunate accidents leads us to ask, how much more can we bear? The reality is that we don’t know — by its nature, tragedy is sudden, uncaring and unpredictable. But the very community dynamics that make each death so personal and so painful also are what help us through these times.

We tend to value self-sufficiency and toughness, but emotional challenges such as these needn’t, and shouldn’t, be tackled alone. If you are struggling with this tragedy, or one of those that preceded it, please reach out to your friends, your church or a professional. The availability of such support is the true strength of our community.


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