Marlena L.Yomes, the 39-year-old paramedic who died with two others in a Hawaii Air Ambulance plane crash on Maui Wednesday, first came to Kaua’i in 2004 to work partly because she liked the island’s rural lifestyle.
Yomes, who worked as a full-time paramedic for American Medical Response on O’ahu, and as an Hawaii Air employee, coveted her parttime AMR job on Kaua’i because the lifestyle here is similar to that of Wai’anae, where she grew up and lived as an adult.
“She liked it here and had planned to come over with her family,” Rachel Tanaka, an AMR emergency medical technician who periodically shared quarters with Yomes in an AMR ambulance station in Kapa’a, told The Garden Island Saturday.
Yomes was aboard a Cesnna 414 A when the aircraft crashed into the parking lot of a BMW dealership, shortly after 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The plane was to have landed at Kahului Airport, but instead, the aircraft crashed about a block from the island’s busiest intersection, Hana Highway and Dairy Road.
The tragedy occurred after the plane lost engine power, according to a preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hawaii Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kluger disputed those claims later in the week.
Also killed in the crash were pilot Peter A. Miller, 32, of Kailua, and nurse Brien P. Eisaman, 37, of Waipahu.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation has gotten underway. The crash is the company’s second in two years.
Since August 2004, Yomes had worked “10 to 12 times” on a part-time basis on Kaua’i for AMR, and was scheduled to work on the island again at the end of this month, Tanaka said.
Tanaka said Yomes’ death hit hard for some of the 38 or so AMR employees on Kaua’i, because two years ago, Danny Villiaros, a Honolulu firefighter who worked for AMR, died in a Hawaii Air Ambulance aircraft crash on the Big Island with two others.
Mandy Shiraki, a paramedic, and Ron Laubacher, a pilot, died in that crash.
Villiaros also worked part-time at AMR stations on Kaua’i, like Yomes, and like Villiaros, Yomes was well liked by fellow AMR employees on the Garden Island, Tanaka said.
On Friday, at the request of Zack Octavio, the Kaua’i operations manager for American Medical Response, a critical incident stress debriefing was held in Lihu’e.
About 10 AMR employees on Kaua’i attended the session, which Tanaka said was led by Kaua’i County firefighters who are skilled in counseling.
Tanaka said she couldn’t attend the debriefing because she couldn’t get away from work.
Nonetheless, she said, Yomes touched her life, professionally and personally.
When Yomes came to Kaua’i in August 2004, she and Tanaka were summoned to a drowning incident at Kealia Beach in East Kaua’i.
The suddenness of the call didn’t faze her, Tanaka recalled.
Although the man drowned, Tanaka remembered how cool under fire Yomes was, and how professionally she performed.
Of course, Tanaka and Yomes wished the man had made it, but “we know in this work, that it (saving a life) doesn’t always happen,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka has been an emergency medical technician for AMR for 13 years and is a registered nurse at the Kaua’i Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea.
Tanaka said Yomes was a “floater” who worked at all five AMR stations in Waimea, Koloa, Lihu’e, Kapa’a and at Princeville. Yomes worked 48-hour shifts on Kaua’i.
Tanaka said she got to know Yomes pretty well when the Honolulu-based AMR worker stayed at the Kapa’a facility.
“We talked about personal things, family and such,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka said Yomes worked the extra shifts on Kaua’i to make extra money for her family. Yomes, who grew up in Wai’anae and owned a home in the area as an adult, worked to pay the extra bills, Tanaka said.
“She wanted her daughter (a teenager) to have every opportunity,” Tanaka said.
Yomes was married and was the mother of two children.
Tanaka said because AMR personnel average about 10 workdays a month, they have a lot of time on their hands and usually work at second jobs, as was the case for Yomes.
AMR employees here liked working around her because of her sunny disposition, Tanaka said.
“She was funny, and the best thing about her is that she was a nice person,” Tanaka said. “Literally, I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about her, nor have I heard her say anything bad about somebody else.”
Tanaka said she believes Yomes went through emergency medical technician and paramedic training at the Kapiolani Community College.
Yomes then worked as a paramedic and EMT with the City and County of Honolulu in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tanaka said.
Yomes moved to Las Vegas, Nev., with her family and worked for another AMR outfit there.
She stayed in Las Vegas for five years, and because she became homesick, she moved back to O’ahu in 2000 or 2001, and began working for AMR in Hawai’i.
Tanaka said she last saw Yomes on Kaua’i one-and-a-half months ago, tending to a case in the emergency room at Wilcox Hospital. Yomes is going to be missed by many AMR workers on Kaua’i, she said.
“I will (miss her).”
- Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and firstname.lastname@example.org.