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Rocklin coast guard member helps to honor crash victims

By: Paris Narayan, Placer Herald Correspondent
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On Oct. 29, 2009, Coast Guard HC-130H Rescue aircraft 1705 collided mid-air with a Marine Corps helicopter. All seven Coast Guard crewmembers and the two Marine Corps pilots passed away in this tragedy. Today, their memories still live on. On Saturday, March 26, there will be a dinner and silent auction as a remembrance for the crew. It will be a way to raise money to build a memorial in Sacramento. The money raised goes toward building a bronze replica of the HC-130H, also known as the C-130 Hercules, plane that crashed. The replica will have a 10-foot wingspan as well. The artist designing the memorial is Auburn artist Doug Van Howd. “The Coast Guard came to me with the idea of this memorial and I thought it was great,” Van Howd said. “I’m a pilot myself, and I lost a son, so I know what it’s like to lose somebody and I wanted to help out and do whatever I could. It’s a wonderful thing they are doing.” Rocklin Coast Guard Todd Lightle knew everyone on the crew and had actually been flying the plane earlier that fateful day. “I was about to go to bed and I got a call from a friend in Hawaii in the Coast Guard who asked me what emergency was going on in Sacramento. My initial reaction was nausea and disbelief. I couldn’t believe this was happening,” he said. He has been in the Coast Guard for 26 years, but the tragic loss of his friends did not make him worry about flying. “When I’m in the aircraft itself, I’m in my bubble and I keep those emotions canned,” he explained. But for his wife, Erin Lightle, it does worry her. “Yes, it makes me nervous that my husband is a pilot,” she said. “I know that he could have easily been on that plane that went down. Personally I don’t like flying, but my husband reminds me that it’s safer than driving on the freeway. He has said that if he dies, he would like it to be while performing his duties in support of saving another life. He is passionate about flying and he loves the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard’s mission of helping those in distress.” For both Todd Lightle and Roseville Captain Mike Eagle, the danger they put their lives in everyday is something they do not think about. Neither of them felt nervous after the crash of Rescue plane 1705 and said they are extremely devoted to helping others. “My entire life I have wanted to be part of an organization that focuses on helping people, protecting our environment and would allow me to be involved in aviation,” Eagle said. “The Coast Guard was the right decision to be able to do all those things. There has not been a single day where I woke up and didn’t want to go to work — it is simply the most rewarding job.” To learn more about the silent auction, go to www.coastguardmemorialfund.com. To view the official website on the loss of Rescue plane 1705, go to www.rescue1705.com. ---------------------- Fundraiser event for the Coast Guard Memorial When: 6 p.m. March 26 Where: Aerospace Museum of Sacramento, 3200 Freedom Park Drive, McClellan What: night includes dinner, wine tasting, live band, live and silent auction, raffle prizes and more Tickets: $30 for individuals; no tickets will be sold at the door Information: www.coastguardmemorialfund.com