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"Honor flight" pays tribute to COVID-19 victims in Shelby

Posted at 2:34 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 17:51:31-04

As a way to honor the five people who have died from COVID-19 in Toole County, iFlyBigSky of Helena did an “Honor-Flight” on Tuesday afternoon.

The pilot flew over the town of Shelby and circled five times, once for each of the community members who has passed away.

They also observed a moment of silence, followed by a high-speed pass and climb into the sky over the Heritage Center.

iFlyBigSky also posted on their Facebook page thanking the American Legion and the VFW in Shelby for placing flags out on the courthouse lawn while they did the flyover.

Tressa Tokerud-Keller with Marias Medical Center says seeing the town of Shelby come together was inspiring: “It was a memorable moment for Toole County. It really granted us some time to unite underneath the blue skies to remember those who we’ve lost, hope for those who are still fighting, and also to express gratitude for those who have recovered.”

Kevin Danz, the pilot, posted on Facebook after the flight: "To see the whole town down there was something that I will never forget. Waving flags, the line of people at the hospital, hotels, businesses, and to see all those flags waving while we pulled up hard and up into clouds. Truly an honor and I might not know who passed away but they were with me, trust me! Love you Shelby!"

To date, there have been 29 confirmed cases in Toole County, and 15 patients are listed as recovered. On a per-capita basis, Toole County has been hit harder than any other county in Montana by the COVID-19 pandemic. All Toole County cases continue to consist of close contact, healthcare-related transmission. Marias Medical Center in Shelby said on March 26 that one of the residents of the Marias Heritage Center (a 38-apartment, state-licensed facility in Shelby) tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, they said that some of the positive COVID-19 tests are from Marias Heritage Center employees. They also said: "This situation also exposed others to COVID-19 and, as such, we expect there could be other positives."

iFlyBigSky focuses primarily on aerial photography, and also provides services such as infrastructure inspection, search and rescue, and damage assessments.