Flight Surgeon Killed In Helicopter Accident Still Saving Lives

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On February 21, Lt. James Anthony Mazzuchelli, U.S. Navy, was struck in the head by a helicopter tail rotor at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. Tragically, he died three days later from his injuries at Scripps La Jolla Medical Facility. The 32-year-old was a flight surgeon assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39, stationed at MCAS Camp Pendleton.

His commitment to help others in need continued after his death, however, as Mazzuchelli was an organ donor. Donating his heart, liver, and kidneys, he was able to help save the lives of others even after his fatal accident.

David Cheers, Mazzuchelli’s stepfather, said of the final operation, “It was the darkest day for us. But we also knew there were four or five people who had been waiting for organ donations. While one family had a rough day, there were others who had the brightest days of their lives.”

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps — Lt. James Anthony Mazzuchelli

“Lt. James Mazzuchelli was an incredibly talented physician and Sailor,” said Col. Matthew Mowery, commanding officer of MAG-39. “His contagious enthusiasm, motivation, and love for the Marines and Sailors of HMLA-267 and MAG-39 [have] been evident in the outpouring of grief at his loss and the support being shown to his family and close friends.”

“His willingness to join the Navy and elect to serve faithfully with the Marines should give a sense of pride to all of us who serve our country, that we are surrounded by heroes every day,” Col. Mowery added. “James and his contribution to our Corps will be sorely missed.”

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Christopher O’Quin — A UH-1Y helicopter prepares to land.

Mazzuchelli, who joined the Navy after participating in Navy ROTC in high school, earned his Naval Flight Surgeon Wings in 2015 and his Aircrewman Wings two months before his death. When he earned his Aircrewman Wings, he asked that his father’s set of Aircrewman Wings be pinned on him.

“That meant the world to me,” said John Mazzuchelli, the father, who served as a chief petty officer in the Navy for 24 years. “I am so proud of who he was and what he was doing. To know he wanted to have that piece of me with him was amazing.”

An investigation is ongoing to discover how the accident occurred.

At a private memorial service held at Camp Pendleton, hundreds of Navy and Marine personnel attended to pay their respects and give their support to the family. “That outpouring of support shows who James was,” said Cheers. “He never knew a stranger.”

Rest in Peace, Lt. James Anthony Mazzuchelli. Fair winds and following seas.

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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.
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