ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) – Nearly 50 years ago, a woman named Mary with a beautiful smile, caught the eye of Lennard Bartlett Sr.
“I instantly fell in love with her,” Bartlett says.
They raised three children together, and Mary was the supporter of everyone she knew.
“She made sure I didn’t get off track, you know? And it was all because she loved me. I’m so glad that she was in my life,” Bartlett says.
Friday morning, complications from pancreatic cancer sent Mary Bartlett to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City. She would need to take a helicopter to Duke Medical Center. Her husband wanted to go with her.
“I just said, ‘I’ll be there soon.’ I said, ‘I’m going to try to go with you if they’ll let me, but I’ll be there soon and I love you,’ and then I kissed her and she said, ‘I love you too.’”
Then came word of a helicopter crash in Perquimans County.
“We said, ‘No, it can’t be her.’ By that time, about 45 minutes had passed. She’s pretty much probably already in Durham,” says Mary’s daughter, Tiffany Bartlett Thompson.
The family later confirmed what they couldn’t imagine: Mary had died in the crash, along with pilot Jeff Burke, and flight nurses Crystal Sollinger and Kris Harrison.
“It’s just so tragic. Just the way it happened,” said son Lennard Bartlett Jr.
Daughter Tracy Bartlett said her mother would often remind her children that she wouldn’t be with them forever.
“My vision of her passing was all of us sitting around her bed with her and her holding hands and her closing her eyes. I think the part that is most hard is that something that just happened and that I can’t get that moment,” she said.
The Bartlett family says they met the three Duke Life Flight employees killed in the crash while they were at the hospital. They want their families to know they’re thinking of their loss, too.