McMinn Co Sheriff's Office mourns loss of Athens doctor
The McMinn County Sheriff's Office is mourning the loss of the Athens doctor who died after his plane crashed in Massachusetts earlier this week.
Dr. Rick Kalister volunteered as MCSO's SWAT Team medic. He was the ER Director at Starr Regional Medical Center in Athens for 14 years.
Kalister, his wife and daughter were killed in the crash. They were in Massachusetts for a college visit.
The plane crashed into a house soon after Kalister reported engine failure to air traffic control. He was looking for an emergency spot to land before the plane went down.
"He was a heck of a guy," said Deputy Adam Cook. "I'm gonna miss him a lot."
News of Kalister's death is still sinking in for Cook, who is on the McMinn County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team. Cook became friends with Kalister, the volunteer SWAT medic.
"You knew with him having your back, you didn't have to worry about anything. We've got an ER doc. God forbid the worst happens, we were OK," Cook said.
"In case one of us gets hurt, injured or shot, he would be right there with us, and start treating us right there," said Detective Jared Price, who is also on the SWAT Team.
"It didn't matter what situation he was in, what was going on in your life or his life, he was always smiling," Price remembered.
When Lt. Eric Allman's son was injured during a soccer game, Kalister offered to pick up the ER bill.
"If somebody was sick or guys here had children sick. If they needed advice or needed something, they just called Doc Kalister and he'd do anything that he could," said Allman.
Aside from being a generous friend, Allman said the doctor was an experienced pilot and a retired Airman.
"He was a former fighter pilot. A lot of folks didn't know that about him because he never bragged about it," Allman said.
That's why news of the crash was such a shock. Several deputies traveled with Kalister to different training conferences across the country. He brought Cook to Shot Show, a popular convention in Las Vegas.
The deputy says it won't be the same without Kalister joining them on the next SWAT scene.
"You want to think because it happened in another state, maybe the information is wrong. That maybe he lived through it, and is just in bad condition or something like that. But when it's confirmed, it hurts," Cook said.
Kalister's honorary deputy badge number will be permanently retired. He's survived by a daughter, who was not on the trip. The family's funeral arrangements have not been announced.