‘These four individuals are absolutely heroes’: El Cajon plane crash victims honored with candlelight vigil

Local

EL CAJON (Calif.) – Family, friends and first responders memorialized four fallen heroes who died in a plane crash in El Cajon last Monday.

A somber crowd gathered for a candlelight vigil on the 1200 block of Pepper Dr., where the Learjet 35A aircraft crashed.

Rick Gentz, the husband of crash victim Laurie Gentz, shared how his wife and her coworkers dedicated their lives to saving others.

“[Laurie] loved it, she absolutely loved her job and she loved her people,” Rick Gentz said. “Every time she would leave, I would worry about her, but I couldn’t stop her because this is what she absolutely wanted to do.”

“These four individuals are absolutely heroes,” said Chris Heisler, founder of Honor Flag.

Rick last saw his wife of nearly 30 years on Monday when she was getting ready to save lives as a flight nurse for Aeromedevac.

“She was walking on air because she had another flight,” he said. “The dogs were waiting for her to come home and I was waiting for the garage to open and then I got the phone call.”

The Learjet plane crashed Dec. 27, killing all four people onboard including Julian Bugaj, Douglas Grande, Tina Ward and Laurie Gentz.

“[Laurie] and Tina were best friends,” Rick said. “They were two peas in a pod, the same person basically.”

The nonprofit Honor Network, which memorialize fallen police officers and first responders around the nation, is working with the families to plan and pay for funeral services.

“I’m encouraging people to find hope in this from each other and from God,” said Chaplain Phil Herrington, with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

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