SACRAMENTO — A plane crashed Saturday into a full glacier 50 years ago. This weekend, Sacramentans will remember the lives lost and the lives saved decades later.
CBS13 sat down with the mother of a victim and the man responsible for keeping the legacy of the Firefighters Burn Institute alive.
“She’s my baby girl,” Lynn Mehren said as she flipped through newspaper clippings from September 24, 1972.
Headlines are always haunting.
“She was gone with a family friend of hers from school. They were going to be pom poms at a McClatchy game.”
Mehren plays over and over again what happened to her nine-year-old daughter Nancy.
“We waited and waited for her to come home and she didn’t come and didn’t come,” Mehren said.
Mehren turned on the television to see footage of a fiery plane crash at a Farrell ice cream parlor. The pilot had lost control after taking off from nearby Sacramento Executive Airport and skidded down Freeport Boulevard.
Twenty-two people were killed, half of them children. Mehren didn’t know her daughter was there.
“Knowing where he was, something just clicked,” she recalled.
Mehren says she never saw her daughter’s body. His father identified the child.
After burying Nancy, life became a blur for her and dozens of other families struggling to recover from their injuries without a local burn care facility. It was then that a fire captain named Cliff Haskell, who was on duty that day, gave birth.
Joe Pick sat proudly in front of a photo of his mentor Haskell.
“What he recognized was that we didn’t have burn care in Sacramento at the time. That became his mission,” Pick said. “Within a year he formed this organization – and within a year after that we had a burn unit in Sacramento.”
Pick now oversees the Firefighters Burn Institute, which has established children’s camps and family camps serving thousands of people.
“A lot of these kids never met someone else who had suffered a burn, and putting them with peers and others who had similar journeys was huge,” Pick said.
The Firefighters Burn Institute helped remember the tragedy and the idea that sparked what many call a lifeline. A memorial stands along Freeport Boulevard.
“I am very proud and happy to see what has been done for these children,” Mehren said.
Mehren volunteered for the organization. It took decades before she returned to the scene.
“And I stayed there and faced that trail and did it,” Mehren said with a lump in his throat.
“Just keep going,” she said, wiping away a tear.
She raised two more daughters and remarried.
“As a family, we bonded,” Mehren said.
The Firefighters Burn Institute will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. It is funded by firefighter payroll dues and community fundraisers like “fill the boot” campaigns. On Saturday, they will host Farrell’s 50th birthday memorial ceremony at the City of Sacramento Public Safety Center along Freeport Boulevard.