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A call for help, 2,000 miles away: Local company helps family of injured Lake City boy fly home

The Lopez family poses July 20, 2018, with staff and crew from Red Wing Aeroplane at Red Wing Regional Airport. Submitted photo1 / 2
A Red Wing Aeroplane jet pictured is similar to one used by the jet charter company July 20, 2018, to fly an injured Lake City boy and his family home from Costa Rica. The boy’s cast for a broken femur prevented him from being able to fly on a commercial airline. Photo courtesy Red Wing Aeroplane2 / 2

A Red Wing company flew into action this week to help bring home an injured Lake City boy and his family.

WCCO on Tuesday reported the story of the Lopez family and 3-year-old Axel, who fell down July 11 and broke his femur while on vacation in Costa Rica. The boy's cast prevents him from flying back on a commercial plane, and an air ambulance would cost the family tens of thousands of dollars.

When Red Wing Aeroplane owner Wes Converse and his wife Lillian saw the story, he said he figured his jet charter company could be just what the family needs.

"I turned to my wife and said, "You know what? I think we can possibly help these people,'" he said in a phone interview Friday.

Converse reached out to the WCCO reporter to help initiate contact with the family. He then called a management meeting to work out the logistics of his plan.

Flying ahead to Friday morning, July 20, a private jet piloted by director of operations Richard Baker and training instructor Christopher Klein was en route to Costa Rica. The return trip to Red Wing was around five and a half hours of flying, with a stop in Brownsville, Texas to go through customs for re-entry to the country.

The plane was scheduled to land around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Converse said he wasn't looking for publicity for the donated flight; he said he saw an opportunity to help folks close to home.

"There are needs all over the world, but I also feel that there are plenty of needs right in our own community," Converse said of his company's focus on contributing to local causes.

Red Wing Aeroplane operates around a dozen jets out of Red Wing Regional Airport, with service throughout the Western Hemisphere. The city owned airport is situated across the river in Bay City, Wisconsin.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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