Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Four friends lost Friday

Four wonderful human beings on a mercy flight to help the truly poor in Baja California were tragically killed when the small plane they were traveling on inexplicably crashed in a remote area of Baja California.

Dr. James Thorton, Dr. Graciela Sarmiento, Roger Lyon and Andrew Thiel gave up their time and were flying down at their own expense to provide free medical care to the migrant farm worker, and laborers in San Quintín, Baja Norte, Mexico.

Jim was a talented plastic surgeon who was involved in this project from its inception in 1985. He had never missed a clinic and devoted countless hours to reconstructing burn victims, repairing birth defects, restoring hand function and removing disfiguring blemishes so that those whom fortune frowned upon could live better lives.

Graciela devoted her time and left her family here to give medical aid to those who had nowhere else to turn. At home, she continued to give to the less fortunate through her practice with Community Health Centers.

Roger was a sports legend at USC and a successful attorney who sacrificed his law practice and flew us down in his own airplane, never refusing a call.

His son Chris, a local emergency room physician of whom he was unrelentingly proud, led the search and rescue effort and located the wreckage.

Andrew, a paramedic, was just beginning his life and yet was willing to climb into that airplane to help others.

The Flying Samaritans family is devastated by this loss and yet know that our pain is nothing compared to those who have lost husbands, fathers, wives, mothers and sons. Our hearts ache with you, and our prayers and thoughts go out to you. It is a comfort to us to know that they gave their lives doing something they loved, something they felt was important and something that was of service to others.

In a time when it is difficult to find heroes, when our sports figures are doping cheaters and our public figures are involved in scandal after scandal, I can point to these four when my grandchildren ask me who is a hero.

It would be a dishonor to their memory to turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in Mexico. We were not deterred by prejudice and bigotry in America, we were not deterred by floods and power failures, we were not deterred when petty jealousy and bickering threatened to tear us apart, we are not deterred by narco-terrorists and we will not be deterred by this unfortunate and tragic accident. The next clinic WILL BE HELD in November.

The world lost four friends Friday.

“Amen I say to you, what ever you did for one of these the least of My brethren, you did for Me.”

Joseph Kuntze is president of the Gold Coast Chapter of Flying Samaritans.