Highland News Leader

Memorial service planned for local pilot killed in California crash

Larry Mills
Larry Mills Courtesy photo

A memorial service will be held Saturday for a Marine native who was killed in July while piloting a medical transport plane that crashed in northern California.

Services for Larry D. Mills will be held at 11 a.m. on Sept. 17 at United Church of Christ of Marine. Interment will be at Mundis Cemetery in Marine. Arrangements are being handled by Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home in Marine.

Mills, 54, who had been living in Crescent City, Calif., and three others were killed when their medical transport plane crashed in the early morning hours on Friday, July 29 into a rugged area of northern California.

Mills, who had more than 30 years of flying experience, was piloting a twin-engine Piper PA31 for Santa Rosa, Calif.-based REACH Air Medical Services’ Cal-Ore Life Flight, transporting a patient from Crescent City Airport to Oakland International Airport.

Around 1 a.m., Mills told air traffic controllers he was declaring an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit, according to the company, and he indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar and communication contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of the Arcata Airport, about 75 miles south of Crescent City.

The plane went down on private timber company land in the Cranell area, a mountainous region of Humboldt County, north of McKinleyville, which is is about 90 miles south of the Oregon border, and about 30 miles from Arcata.

In addition to Mills, the coroner identified the other victims, all of Crescent City, Calif., as:

▪ Deborah Kroon, 49, a flight nurse;

▪ Michelle Tarwater, 30, a certified flight paramedic; and

▪ April Rodriquez, 35, the patient who was being transported.

Mills graduated from Triad High School in 1980. He flew gliders, helicopters, dual-engine light aircraft and taught at Schafer Airport in St. Jacob. He had flown in Alaska, North Dakota, Arizona and California. He had contracts with the US Army and Air Force to train pilots.

He is survived by his father, Jerry M. Mills of Marine; wife, Trina L. Mills of Crescent City, Calif.; daughter, Chanda L. (husband David Anderson) Mills of Marine; a sister, Sherry J. (William “Bill”) Chase of Marine; brothers, Lowell H. (Annette M.) Mills of Marine and Keith A. (Darlene) Mills of Marine.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Shirley J. Mills, who died on Aug. 10, 2004.

Memorial contributions may be made to Larry Mills Scholarship Fund.