The Alaska Department of Public Safety has released obituaries honoring Pilot Mel Nading and Trooper Tage Toll, who were killed in a helicopter crash during a rescue mission on March 30.
Melvin “Mel” Nading, 55, was hired in December 2000 to be the primary pilot for the Alaska Department of Public Safety’s Helo-1 in support of various missions. During Nading’s 13 years with the department, he was the primary search-and-rescue (SAR) pilot for the department, and interacted with other agencies to coordinate search and rescue efforts, performing saves and critical missions on a near-weekly basis. In addition, Nading provided helicopter support to Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers for law enforcement missions to include the Special Emergency Reaction Team when needed.
For various periods of times throughout his career, Nading was the only pilot certified to fly Helo-1. Shortly after he was hired, Nading was instrumental in acquiring and equipping the Eurocopter AS350 B3 (AStar) helicopter that in 2002 replaced an aging Bell aircraft as Helo-1. Nading also ensured the helicopter received appropriate maintenance and keeps detailed records of flight hours, expenses, certification and equipment needs. Additionally, Nading was an instructor pilot for both the department’s AStar and Robinson R44 helicopters and routinely certified department pilots on both aircraft.
In 2012 alone, Nading flew over 200 hours on SAR flights, patrols, test and training flights, investigations for police and state agencies. He logged 983 contacts, 73 rescues, 13 medical evacuations, recovered eight bodies and assisted with two arrests.
Because of his experience, Nading was well known and well respected among the SAR community and was known for his attention to safety. He also received six letters of thanks from people and their families for rescues that year. In 2008, he and Sgt. Bryan Barlow were recipients of the Governor's Denali Peak Performance Award and received a Commendation for Meritorious Service for saving the life of a kayaker caught in a bore tide on July 29, 2007. Due to Nading’s phenomenal flying skills, he was able to hold the helicopter steady and close to the waters as Barlow leaned out and pulled the kayaker from Turnagain Arm, saving the man’s life. This is just one of the countless rescues Nading can be credited with.
Nading is originally from Manchester, Iowa. Nading is survived by his wife, three grown daughters and five granddaughters.
Alaska State Trooper Tage B. Toll, 40, of Talkeetna became a trooper in 2003 after working two years with the Kansas Highway Patrol. Originally from Clifford, Kansas, Toll attended the Public Safety Academy in February 2003. After graduating from the academy in July 2003, Toll received his initial field training at the Alaska State Trooper post in Fairbanks. In October 2004, Toll transferred to a position with the wildlife arm of Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement, in Glennallen. After more than two years, Toll transferred to the AST post in Northway. Then in September of 2009, Toll transferred to Talkeetna. At this post, he worked aside a sergeant, an administrative clerk, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper and three other Alaska State Troopers. Toll was often tasked as an Officer-In-Charge during shifts.
Toll was a Department of Public Safety firearms instructor and a member of the Southcentral Special Emergency Reaction Team. He was recipient of the 2012 Shooting Award for the highest average score for B Detachment. He often offered to accompany his coworkers to the range to help them improve their marksmanship. He also was a nominee for the Governors Denali Peak Performance Award this year for excellent customer service.
Toll was known as a hard worker. He was a certificated private pilot and loved to fly his Super Cub on his days off. He is survived by his wife and three sons.