For many pet owners in the Imperial Valley, local veterinarian Dr. James Thompson was more than a doctor.
The interest and passion he expressed toward his patients was extended to that of their owners and beyond.
Thompson is being mourned today by his many friends and acquaintances in the Valley after it was learned he was killed Sunday in an airplane accident. Thompson’s Piper Cherokee went down Sunday evening in Arizona, according to Tucson News Now/KOLD.
Pima County sheriff’s officials Monday identified the pilot of the Piper Cherokee as 57-year-old James Lloyd Thompson of El Centro.
Investigators say Thompson was flying back to El Centro after dropping off family members in Las Cruces, N.M., and then stopping in Benson, Ariz.
He was the only person aboard the Piper when it crashed in the Tucson Mountain District northwest of Avra Valley.
The Federal Aviation Administration lost radar contact with the plane about 9 p.m. and contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection to start a search.
Sheriff’s officials say the wreckage was found in a remote desert area.
The FAA will investigate the cause of the crash, while the National Transportation Safety Board is the lead investigative agency, wrote Ian Gregor, FAA public affairs manager in an email.
The NTSB investigator usually posts a basic preliminary report on the agency’s website within a week or two of an accident, wrote Gregor.
However, it typically takes NTSB months to come up with a probable cause for accidents.
“He truly is going to be missed,” said Jesse Larios, manager at Foster Feed Yard in Brawley. “He had such a passion for his job that you could say he never worked a day in his life.”
Larios added that Thompson also took a genuine concern in the animals of the local 4-H and Future Farmers of America members.
“In five years, my daughter had nine champion animals and our friendship with the doc had a lot to do with it,” he said. “During visits he would only charge her a dollar because he said it was his way of helping the leaders of tomorrow.”
Retired Imperial County 4-H adviser Mary Harmon also recognized Thompson for his work in the following statement:
“Dr. Thompson was a critical resource for the 4-H community here in the Imperial County. He donated countless hours to the care of animals and the education of their young owners. Doc was known for his humor and approachable nature. His passing will leave a tremendous void.”
In addition to his enthusiasm for animals, Thompson also had a passion and adventure for life, which was evident in his interest and hobbies.
“He was just a very passionate person that loved doing new things,” said Thompson’s long-time friend Jim Luck. “He absolutely enjoyed life. He took up skydiving and piloting in the last 10 years or so.”
Imperial Valley College President Victor Jaime also recalled the joy Thompson had for life.
“Outside of animals, he loved adventure and taking risks,” he said. “He loved skydiving and helping people. His passing is not only the loss of a great vet but a down-to-earth, wonderful human being who loved people and animals.”
Thompson also helped treat the dogs of the local Border Patrol, which released the following statement upon learning of his death:
“Dr. Thompson was the El Centro Sector Border Patrol Canine Unit’s primary veterinarian for more than 15 years. He was a member of our Border Patrol family. We are extremely saddened by his passing. Dr. Thompson will be missed.”
Staff Writer Karina Lopez can be reached at 760-337-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Associated Press contributed information to this story.