BAXTER, Minn - Nearly 100 first responders and community members from Crow Wing County gathered in Baxter for a prayer vigil for Josh Duda, the paramedic hurt in Friday's Air Care helicopter crash.
Duda’s co-workers, nurse Deb Schott and pilot Tim McDonald didn't make it.
Duda's friend Mike Pluimer read a statement from Duda's family.
“Our thoughts and prayers are also with the families of Josh's coworkers as we too mourn their loss,” Pluimer said.
Josh is naturally a fighter. He's the Baxter community's leader in Iron Man race competitions, one of the toughest in the world combining swimming, bicycling and running.
“It's 140.6 miles, and a lot of times what gets you to the end of the race is your girt and determination,” Pluimer said.
And he says Duda is also a natural teammate. Which plays deeply into his love for his job as a first responder. And also plays into the tragedy of losing two of his teammates in the crash.
“That's the thing that keeps running through my mind. I just can't imagine what that's like to see your teammates go down, and to survive. And the emotional struggle he's going to go through is probably as hard or harder than the physical struggle through it all,” Pluimer said.
The tragedy is deeply affecting other first responders. Duda also volunteered on the Crow Wing County Sheriff's dive team.
“It was truly just gut-wrenching,” said Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard.
But everyone who knows Duda, his wife, son, friends and colleagues, all believe Duda can pull through.
“Frankly, I haven't talked with him yet, but he's the type that it wouldn't surprise me if he's competing again someday,” Pluimer said.
Those who know Duda say that he has broken bones, he's still in critical condition in North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, but he is expected to survive.