First responders, law enforcement officials and health care officials gathered to pay tribute to former caregiver and REMSA Care Flight nurse Ed Pricola and to support his family in a private vigil Friday at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.
Pricola was one of five aboard on the Care Flight medical transport that crashed in Lyon County at about 9:15 p.m. Feb. 24. The plane was transporting a patient and a family member from Reno to Salt Lake City and went down in Stagecoach. All five on board, including a pilot, flight nurse and Pricola, died in the crash.
Michelle Joy, Carson-Tahoe’s CEO, welcomed local first responders from Carson City, East Fork, Douglas, Lyon and Washoe sheriff’s and fire departments, as well as Central Lyon Fire and its Search and Rescue crew who were first on scene.
“We are here tonight to honor and remember those who perished in that crash: Ed Pricola, Ryan Watson, Scott Walton and Mark and Teri Rand,” Joy said. “Our hearts are heavy with grief. Tonight is a difficult evening as we pause to remember those who have been lost and remember their courage and dedication to their calling and their fierce commitment to saving lives in our community. They were all our heroes.”
On Friday, Pricola was honored in a series of memories provided by staff members as a “beloved family member.” Colleagues were invited to reflect on humorous or serious moments that meant the most to them in the emergency room as he helped with difficult patients, unusual calls or other incidents.
Janelle Hoover, CTH chief nursing officer, told the Appeal Thursday before the event, she was the first to interview Pricola for a position with CTH but referred him immediately to the hospital’s emergency room. Hoover celebrated him as “outgoing and confident in himself.”
“You could definitely tell he wanted to learn and grow as a nurse and succeed at the time,” she said. “His five-year plan was to go back to school. He had such drive.”
Meg Jack, chief medical director for the hospital, said Pricola “absolutely loved his job.”
Hoover said she received the call Feb. 24 from her supervisor that the Care Flight plane had gone down.
“We didn’t know at the time who was on it,” she said, but added it was important to honor Pricola.
“We want to wrap our arms around his family and colleagues,” she said.
The vigil included a joint honor guard detail with members from the Carson City Fire Department, East Fork Fire Department and the Carson City Sheriff’s Office presenting colors.
Pricola was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a nurse at Carson Tahoe Health in Carson City for more than three years before becoming a flight nurse, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Dustin Holland, a full-time emergency room doctor with Central Lyon Fire for about five months, attended the vigil and called Pricola a friend.
“I think this is incredible,” he said. I miss Ed dearly, he was a friend. He worked for the ER before he went to Care Flight. It’s just such a loss for our community, but this type of event really is what brings us together. There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood when it comes to EMS, and this event shows it.”
Holland shared he and Pricola were working on projects outside of work and called him generous for willing to help others.
“I think (Care Flight) was a dream job for him,” Holland said. “I’m really happy he got to pursuit it.”
On Friday night, Lombardo signed an executive order to lower flags at half-staff in honor of the plane crash victims following Pricola’s vigil beginning at sunrise Saturday.
The flags will remain at half-staff until the conclusion of the final memorial service honor the first responders involved in the incident, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“Donna and I are mourning the lives lost in last night’s tragic Care Flight accident,” Lombardo said in the release. “Our hearts are heavy today. We are sending our prayers and deepest condolences to REMSA Health and to all families that were impacted.”
A public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Additional information will be announced at a later time. As memorial services are planned to honor Care Flight and Guardian Flight colleagues whose lives were lost Feb. 24, anyone is welcome to share pictures and videos that may be included in public tributes at remsahealth.com/share-a-memory.
A GoFundMe account has been set up in Pricola’s name for those interested in providing donations for his family at https://www.gofundme.com/f/ed-pricola-remsa-careflight-bsn-rn. As of Friday night, $107,978 of a $300,000 goal had been reached.