By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hundreds gathered at a Lakeville’s Celebration Church Tuesday morning to remember and honor Tim McDonald, a medical pilot who died the early morning of June 28, when his chopper crashed in Brainerd.

Over 40 first responder departments from across the state were represented at the funeral and hundreds of North Memorial employees, where McDonald worked as a pilot.

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McDonald was a 44-year-old husband and father of four, served in the U.S. Army and did two tours in Iraq, and left the service to fulfill his dream of being a medevac pilot.

McDonald was one three people on board the chopper that crashed last month. Flight nurse Deb Schott also died in the crash, and another employee was injured.

North Memorial Health CEO Kevin Croston spoke about the incident at Tuesday’s funeral for the first time since the crash happened.

“We at North Memorial really are a family, and Tim and Deb we’re a very important part of that family and we’re going to miss them,” Croston said.

Croston said his team’s spirits have been lifted during this painful time by the large number of people who have reached out to show their support.

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“Nobody signs up to have this kind of an outcome, but these are folks that give their lives to service and that’s why I think you see the support you do,” Croston said.

Also among those who showed up to grieve were about 20 of McDonald’s former hockey teammates from Gustavus Adolphus College. Mike Hoolihan said McDonald took him under his wing when he was a freshman and McDonald was a junior.

“That will stay with me, that will stay with our team … the way that he led, that he cared, he showed compassion for everybody that he ever came in contact with, really an exceptional person,” Hoolihan said.

The funeral ended with an aerial salute called the “Missing Man Formation” where four medical choppers flew over the church, and one of them abruptly left the formation while the remaining three continue flying on.

McDonald was buried afterwards at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

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Croston says their medical choppers will remain grounded for now, even though the FAA has approved them for flying. He says he will release a plan for a return for service next week.

Marielle Mohs