BRAINTREE (CBS) – It was a month and a half ago, when the Dinon family of Braintree left Marshfield and landed safely in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Their nerves were put at ease by a humorous and warm pilot. “We really hit it off. We talked a lot,” Jack Dinon said.
Jack and his wife Michelle flew with Pilot John Campbell. Their four-year-old Sophia needed to be evaluated for a liver transplant in Pittsburgh. “He just made her feel so comfortable. He just had such a great sense of humor as soon as we met him in Marshfield,” Michelle said.
Campbell, of Stamford, Connecticut, volunteered with Angel Flight NE and had since 2003. In that time, he’d flown more than 600 flights. Saturday, at home in Braintree, the Dinons heard about the crash in New York. “We figured of all the pilots that volunteer for the organization there would be no way it would be one of the ones we flew with in April. So we were definitely heartbroken when we heard that it was John,” Michelle said.
The Dinons felt comfortable with the 70-year-old Campbell, an experienced Pilot who clearly loved what he was doing. “He’d flown hundreds of Angel Flight missions and it was just wonderful. We felt so confident with him and we were happy that he was at least doing what he loved,” she said.
The family is heartbroken over the loss. They’d hoped to fly with Campbell again. “I think that he just wished us luck and said hopefully he’d see us again in the future,” Jack said of their last conversation with him. The couple has photos before, after and during the flight. They also have an oak and ash writing pen that Campbell made from hand. “I think it is more important now than what we thought when he gave it to us. We thought this would be a real memory of our first Angel Flight but now you know it is a memory of John himself as well,” Jack said.
The trip was successful. Sophia, who suffers from Urea Cycle Disorder, is now on a waiting list for a transplant. The family will need to use Angel Flight again and will do so with complete confidence. “They do such a great job and John was obviously as experienced as you could get so it is just out of your control sometimes,” Michelle said.
This was the 4th fatal crash in Angel Flight history, the 2nd for Angel Flight New England. But since 1993, the organization as a whole has flown more than 12 million miles safely. That includes more than 65,000 flights in 33 states.
The NTSB is still investigating the crash that claimed Campbell’s life, as well as those of a cancer patient and his wife who were returning home from Boston.