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Doctor Killed in Crash Remembered for Drive to Excel

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dr. Francis Markoe Dugan Jr. was remembered Saturday as a man propelled by a striving for excellence that was tempered by compassion for the less fortunate.

Friends and family members talked about Dugan’s commitment to excellence in everything he did, whether it was practicing medicine or bicycling through the Alps. It was that commitment, friends said, that compelled Dugan to volunteer for a mercy mission to Mexico earlier this month that led to his death in a plane crash.

“Today, we really feel the sadness of death,” said Father Colm Conlon. “Naturally, we all feel a sense of pain and question why.”

Dugan was memorialized at a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church, which was almost filled to capacity by friends and colleagues from UCI Medical Center in Orange, where Dugan was assistant clinical professor of head and neck surgery. The soft cries of mourners could be heard throughout the hourlong ceremony.

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The 37-year-old father of two young children was a passenger aboard a private airplane that slammed into a ridgeline at Camp Pendleton on March 3. Also killed in the crash were Dr. George Brauel, another UCI Medical Center physician, pilot Anthony W. Shanks and co-pilot Randy V. Breding. Their bodies were recovered last Monday.

Dugan’s wife, Melissa Marie Dugan, is expecting the couple’s third child in August. She sat with Dugan’s parents, Dr. Francis and Elizabeth Dugan, during Saturday’s ceremony.

Several speakers said they admired the passion and enthusiasm that Dugan put into everything he did, including skiing and tennis, and how he always insisted on the same from his friends. But Dugan also kept life in proper perspective, they said.

A speaker remembered Dugan, who was called Mark by family and friends, as being “witty and kind” and with “a provocative humor that at times made people want to wring your neck.”

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“You seduced everyone with finesse,” she added.

“As a doctor, you were a true inspiration,” said another friend. “You had that compassion.”

Conlon told the mourners not to question Dugan’s death “but to seek comfort.”

In his homily, Conlon talked about a life that was all too brief and prayed that “he may live radiant and forever young.” He lamented “this untimely death of one who was talented and giving and on his way to help the less fortunate.”

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Dugan and the others were on a medical mission to San Blas in the Mexican state of Sinaloa at the time of the crash, which occurred minutes after taking off from John Wayne Airport. The mission was sponsored by Orange County-based LIGA International, known as the Flying Doctors of Mercy. The flight was the first medical mission undertaken by Dugan for LIGA.

Conlon’s homily was preceded by a reading from the Book of Wisdom that moved several inside the church to tears. The message was of the brief lives that good people often live on Earth: “In the time of their visitation, they shall shine.”

After the church service, Dugan’s cherrywood casket was placed inside a hearse for the trip to Ascension Cemetery in Lake Forest, where he was interred.

LIGA President Dr. Ray Hendrickson, who was among the mourners Saturday, called the deaths a tragedy and said the medical missions will continue.

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“The service for Mark was a celebration and memory of the work he was dedicated to,” Hendrickson said. “As far as the Flying Doctors are concerned, his memory will live on and his work will continue.”

In addition to volunteer doctors, the group depends on volunteer pilots and planes.

The crash that killed Dugan and his three companions remains under investigation. Federal officials have said the crash was apparently weather-related. The Piper Apache PA-23, owned and piloted by Shanks, was 40 years old.

Last week, National Transportation Safety Board investigator George Petterson said the plane was not equipped for instrument flying in inclement weather. Federal officials said Shanks chose to fly under visual flight rules and left Orange County in dense fog.

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Had Shanks chosen to file a flight plan instead, he would have been required by air traffic controllers to fly at least 2,000 feet above the mountains where his plane crashed, federal officials said.

Funeral services for Brauel are scheduled today at Peek Family Colonial Funeral home in Westminster. Shanks and Breding were both from Sacramento.


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