ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — The last time Todd Baxter saw James Sauer, it was in a church on Easter Sunday. Baxter found himself back in a church again Tuesday night.
Sauer, known as “Jim” to those close to him, was one of two people to die Tuesday afternoon when a Mercy Flight helicopter crashed during a training session in the Genesee County Town of Elba. Both he and other the victim, Stewart Dietrick of Prosper, Texas, were 60.
“In church, we were rejoicing at the same time we were mourning,” Baxter said. “We believe he’s in heaven right now. He’s dancing with the angels and he’s waiting for us.”
Baxter first met Sauer when they worked together in the Rochester Police Department. Baxter would go on to eventually become the Monroe County Sheriff. Sauer’s resume also includes time as a civilian pilot for the New York State Police, while at the same time serving in the New York Army National Guard. He started flying for Mercy Flight in 2020.
“It’s hard to find a person that’s got more of a service attitude than Jim did,” the sheriff added.
Baxter recalled meeting Sauer for the first time and labeling him as a “good human being”. It took his memory back to a moment when his department made a boy with autism from the Rochester area “sheriff for a day”.
“We found out the young man had an affinity toward aviation. One phone call to Jim and I was at the aviation headquarters in Rochester for state police,” Baxter recalled. “Next thing I know Jim is on the ground on all fours with this kid. They’re making noises on the joystick of the helicopter pretending they’re both flying it together.
“It was one phone call. ‘I’ll see you down there.'”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.