A life of service

In Memoriam: Flight surgeon dies after being struck by helicopter rotor

The 32-year-old physician and sailor donated organs in final life-saving act after accident.


Navy Lt. James A Mazzuchelli, DO, of Orange Park, Florida, died Feb. 24 following injuries sustained when he was struck by a tail rotor of a helicopter. He was 32.

Dr. Mazzuchelli was a flight surgeon out of Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California. The incident occurred around 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Camp Pendleton. He was pronounced dead early Saturday morning at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. The cause of the incident is under investigation by the military.

Dr. Mazzuchelli graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) in Bradenton, Florida, in 2014, where he was enrolled in the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which allows qualified medical and dental students to earn full tuition in addition to a monthly stipend.

Dr. Mazzuchelli matched into a family medicine residency program at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. He was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39, according to military officials.

“His willingness to join the Navy and elect to serve faithfully with the Marines should give a sense of pride to all of us who serve our country that we are surrounded by heroes every day,” said Col. Matthew Mowery, commander of MAG-39. “His contribution to our Corps will be sorely missed.”

Final mission

Dr. Mazzuchelli was known as “Doc Mazz” to his squadron, the Stingers, according to a story in the Orange County Register. He immersed himself in the camaraderie of his squadron, which became a second family to him, said his stepfather David Cheers.

Surgeons were able to save Dr. Mazzuchelli’s heart, kidneys and liver for organ donation, giving him a final chance to save lives.

“If you give someone a heart, it changes their life forever and maybe they get to have children. Maybe in two generations, they discover a cancer cure,” Cheers told the OC Register. “They wouldn’t be alive today if James hadn’t donated his heart.”


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