ELBA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The crews of Mercy Flight are responsible for saving countless lives in Western New York.

Emily James, Catholic Health’s lead EMS liaison, knows that firsthand.

“The impact that Mercy Flight has on Western New York is immeasurable,” James said. “This is a huge partnership. Catholic Health s actually embedded in the roots of Mercy Flight. We helped them get up and running, and we had a partnership with them through their entire 41 years.”

But that’s not her only connection to the nonprofit. James also worked for Mercy Flight for nearly a decade.

“To be on this end of it now and not know who was on the aircraft, but know that one of my Mercy Flight family members was no longer with us, it was absolutely heartbreaking,” James said.

She told News 4 it was devastating to hear of the loss of James Sauer, one of the pilots killed in yesterday’s crash, who she’s worked with in the past.

“He was dedicated to his job, to his family and everybody who was on board with him,” James said. “Nobody every questioned getting on an aircraft with him.”

Dr. Samuel Cloud of ECMC said, as the area’s level one trauma center, the hospital also has a close connection with Mercy Flight.

“I’m always really grateful when I see the Mercy Flight crew land and seeing that they’ve taken extremely good care of the patient while they had responsibility for them from the scene,” Dr. Cloud said.

He told News 4 he worked as a physician on Mercy Flight for a few years, and that the nonprofit always does so much for Western New York.

“To know tat people are willing to assume small risk to bring the sickest patients here to ECMC fills me with tremendous gratitude,” Dr. Cloud said.

Kaleida Health also released a statement following the crash. A spokesperson said their thoughts and prayers are with the entire Mercy Flight team, and that the hospital will remain focused on supporting the nonprofit.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.