CHURCHVILLE, NY (WKBW) — A full military send-off for the Mercy Flight pilot killed in a helicopter crash last Tuesday.
Family, friends, and colleagues gathered in Churchville, New York for the funeral of James Sauer, 60, a man they called “Jimmy”.
It was an impressive show of support from law enforcement, military, and first responder, who gathered to pay a final tribute Sauer who died last week in a Mercy Flight helicopter crash in the Genesee County town of Elba while on a training mission.
The funeral procession arrived at Open Door Baptist Church in Churchville, led by a color guard and bagpipers after a funeral procession that spanned 15 miles from a funeral home.
Sauer was a pilot for 40-years and had an impressive career, spanning the military, law enforcement, and as a first responder.
Sauer served in the U.S. army, multiple deployments in the war in Iraq, was a police officer in Rochester and Holley, a volunteer firefighter, and served in aviation with New York State Police and New York Army National Guard.
Even in retirement, he didn’t slow down, lending his talents to Mercy Flight.
Sauer’s niece recalled how her uncle fell in love with flying at the age of 13 when his sister Sue took him on a picnic outside Batavia and a farmer took him for a ride in a small plane.
“In the middle of the flight. The farmer turned the controls over to Jimmy and let him give it a try. On the car ride home, Jimmy told Sue — ‘I’m going to be a pilot’ and that was that,” Shelly Daigler explained.
It was Sauer's passion for flying and saving lives as a former medevac pilot in the Army that brought him to Mercy Flight.
“And right, up to this incident he had been flying — helicopters — airplanes black hawks and — Bell 40 — you name it — he could fly it,” reflected Bill Accuosti, friend.
Sauer died while training with bell helicopter Pilot Stewart Dietrich. But Sauer’s longtime military friend says Sauer was well-equipped to handle emergencies.
“He really was the best and he pretty much any emergency that any pilot can handle. He was pretty much capable of handling that,” Accuosti responded.
“Jim Sauer was the embodiment of the best that our culture could produce,” declared Patrick Lewalter, friend.
Another dear friend says Sauer was one of the very best who touched many lives.
“And I think what the family would ask for those first responders that are out there for you is that you say a prayer for them,” Lewalter said.
After the funeral, a final military salute to a man who died doing what he loved flying.
As Sauer is laid to rest this week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says is expected to issue a preliminary report by this Friday.