Tri-Cities Airport director dies from car injuries

PASCO -- Remembered as a leader in his field and in the community, Tri-Cities Airport Director Jim Morasch died Thursday evening.

"He was the best," said Port of Pasco Executive Director Jim Toomey. "It's just a huge loss at every level -- for the airport industry, the port industry and, of course, friends and family. It's terrible."

Morasch, of Pasco, died at 5:16 p.m. at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a nursing supervisor. He was 68.

He was flown to the Seattle hospital Jan. 25 after being injured in an early morning crash on Taylor Flats Road in north Franklin County.

Morasch suffered multiple broken bones, including both legs, after his car was hit head on by a pickup driven by Rafael Santiago-Cruz, 36, of Richland.

Santiago-Cruz died in the collision after he apparently lost control of his pickup on a patch of ice.

Thursday evening, Toomey remembered Morasch as someone who had "high integrity, high personal standards. He was well liked by everybody."

Morasch had worked as the airport director in Pasco since 1980.

Toomey said Morasch's aviation connections stretched back to the Vietnam War, during which Morasch flew rescue missions as a helicopter pilot.

"They'd go in when somebody was down," he said, "and Jim went and got him. That's the kind of person he was."

Before his death, Morasch received several accolades in his field and in the community.

He was a longtime member of the American Association of Airport Executives and held various offices, including president.

In 2007, the federal Transportation Security Administration honored Morasch with an award for his leadership. In 2008, the Port of Pasco commissioners honored him by changing the name of Airport Road to Morasch Lane.

On Thursday evening, Rand Wortman, chief executive officer of Kadlec Health System and Kadlec Regional Medical Center, said Morasch had served on the board of both institutions for the past few years.

"He's been a great board member," he said. "He's been just a good leader for us. He's insightful, very thoughtful."

Toomey said Morasch originally was from Colfax and previously had managed the Pullman/Moscow Regional Airport.

Outside of work, Morasch was a "big outdoorsman" who liked to golf, hike and had recently taken up cycling.

"We're all going to have a hard time dealing with this tomorrow," Toomey said of Morasch's death. "Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with the family."

Morasch is survived by his wife and three grown children.

* Kathy Korengel: 509-582-1541; kkorengel@tricityherald.com