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Russell, Gann fondly remembered for lives of service
Two crew members were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday evening when the LifeSaver 4 helicopter out of Sylacauga crashed near Chelsea. Registered Nurse Samuel “Adam” Russell of Hanover, pictured at left, and pilot Marc Gann of Sylacauga, right, died in the crash. Medic Amanda Daniels, center, was hospitalized following the crash, but is stable and recovering. Photo collage submitted
Samuel “Adam” Russell of Hanover. Photo submitted
Marc Gann of Sylacauga. Photo submitted
Adam Russell. Photo submitted
Hanover resident Adam Russell, pictured at left, was a registered nurse for LifeSaver 4. Photo submitted
Kiley Owen created this memorial graphic to honor pilot Marc Gann and registered nurse Adam Russell who died in the tragic medical helicopter crash.
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Tragedy struck multiple areas and communities Sunday evening, including Coosa County and the Hanover community, following news of a medical helicopter crash near Chelsea.
LifeSaver 4 of Sylacauga was responding to a call of service at about 5:30 p.m. to extract a distressed hiker who suffered breathing problems and chest pains when the Eurocopter EC130 helicopter medevac went down off of U.S. Highway 280 on Bear Creek Road near Mountain Oaks Drive shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday, April 2, and caught fire. Deputies had set up a landing area for the helicopter, and a deputy called 911 to report that the helicopter had crashed.
Samuel “Adam” Russell; 43, of Hanover; and Marc Gann; 63, of Sylacauga; were killed as a result of the crash. Russell was a registered nurse, and Gann was the pilot for the crew.
Adding to the tragedy, the hiker in distress that the crew was attempting to help later passed away at Grandview Medical Center after being transported by ground service.
The sole survivor of the LifeSaver 4 crew, medic Amanda Daniels, was injured in the crash and hospitalized, initially being reported in critical condition. She has since been reported as being in stable condition and is expected to recover.
The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration A preliminary report may be available in approximately 10-12 business days; however, a typical NTSB investigation can reportedly take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to complete and determine the cause.
Gann served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army where he was an attack helicopter pilot with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 and was also a former Army Ranger. He attended Opelika High School prior to entering the military.
Coosa County’s own Adam Russell worked with East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika as a paramedic from 2005-2009 before going on to work with LifeSaver 4 in Sylacauga.
Austin Bayles, Lee County’s EMS operations manager, recalled working with Russell at EAMC and described him as a hard worker who always had a positive attitude and someone who had “great patient care skills and an excellent bedside manner.” He mentioned knowing that Russell’s career goal was to be a flight nurse.
Exemplifying a heart of service, Russell also worked with the Sylacauga Fire Department on a part-time basis for more than 15 years.
In the wake of the tragedy, there was an outpouring of support, comfort and condolences for the families, with many sharing their memories of the two men.
Gann’s wife, Brenda Gann, wrote the following on social media, “Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time. Marc loved his family, co-workers and community. Marc lived by the motto ‘It’s not the destination but the journey.’ His journey involved a life dedicating his service to saving soldiers, saving lives and making a difference in this world. At this time, we ask that you give the family time to grieve and plan an appropriate memorial in his honor. Arrangements will be announced at a later date.”
Amanda Daniels, the third crew member and sole survivor of the crash, also expressed her thoughts on social media once she was able.
“To say I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and prayers for our LifeSaver family would be a complete understatement,” Daniels wrote. “My heart is shattered into a million pieces. My body is bruised and sore but will heal. My heart will not. I lost two very important people in my life. We all did. Marc Gann is one of the best pilots I ever had the pleasure to work with. He is an even better friend to everyone. Selfless, hard working and insanely funny. Adam Russell is a dedicated father, son, husband, and friend. If you’ve ever flown with him you would know before the helicopter ever left the ground he bowed his head, folded his hands and prayed. Not every once in a while, every flight. Same as our last day together.”
She added, “I would fly to the moon and back with those two great men. Let’s honor them.”
Numerous others also mentioned Russell, who attended church services that morning just hours before the fatal crash, being a man of faith. Many social media posts and comments shared that he was a praying man whose Christian faith was a large part of his life, and he was also seen in photos wearing a red “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet, another sign of his faith.
Shane Phillips wrote, “Adam Russell was my partner on LifeSaver 4 for around four years. Words could never describe what he will always mean to me. He was a Christian first and always. His walk with Christ was solid, and he wasn’t afraid to share it. I can remember most every time transporting critically injured patients, some who knew their fate, him removing his helmet, laying hands on them and praying with them.”
Phillips added that Russell was always fun, that he loved to laugh and could recite every word to “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“He was simply amazing,” Phillips wrote. “His skills and knowledge were unbelievable to say the least. He loved his wife, Tamara, and kids unconditionally. He loved his LifeSaver family beyond words. He always went out of his way to make sure everyone was taken care of.”
Coosa County resident Jennifer Robbins, who knew Russell and his family well as a neighbor in the Hanover community, spoke highly of him and the kind of person he was, from childhood through adulthood.
“On rare occasions someone truly special is born, someone who has the ability to change the world,” she wrote. “Adam Russell was one of those special people. From the time he was a small child helping his granddad in the fields, to when he grew into a teenager that was friendly to everyone, to when he chose a profession that was constantly helping others… Adam had a soul that shined with love for others. He had an unmatched work ethic. He was always smiling, and [there are] hundreds of stories of him helping others when in need, whether at work where he literally saved lives or just in the small community of Hanover where he was the best neighbor you could have. He was a fantastic father, brother, friend, and son that everyone who knew him, loved him.”
Robbins further wrote, “I’m not sure why his life ended so soon, but I do know that he went from being an angel on earth to an angel in Heaven. Adam was beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the best people I have ever known, and he will be greatly missed, but he will never be forgotten.”
Russell is survived by his wife, Tamara; three sons, Dylan Russell, Jesse Lankford and J.D. Stephens; mother, Robin Brooks, and her husband, Fred; father, Darol Russell, and his wife, Sherry; and numerous other family members, friends and his LifeSaver family.
Russell’s funeral will be held Monday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at Andrews Chapel in Hanover. The visitation will be the same day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Radney-Smith Funeral Home in Sylacauga.
In light of his dedicated service, Russell’s casket will be carried atop a Sylacauga Fire Department fire engine from Sylacauga to Andrews Chapel for the funeral. Following the funeral he will be transported atop a Hanover Volunteer Fire Department fire engine to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest.