Iowa Medical Helicopter Crash – Updated 2:40-a.m.


January 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Three people are dead after a medical helicopter crashed in northern Iowa, while flying from Mason City to Emmetsburg.  Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Matt Klunder said the helicopter was affiliated with Mercy Medical Center and that a pilot and two nurses were killed. Witnesses say the chopper burst into flames, when it went down.

The Heli-pad at Mercy Medical Center- North Iowa in Mason City sits empty following a fatal crash Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy Bob Fisher, KGLO/Mason City)

The crash occurred about 9 p.m. Wednesday near Ventura. Officials with Mercy Medical Center North issued the following statement to the local media early Thursday morning:

“Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa is devastated to confirm that its medical helicopter, Mercy Air Med, went down en route to Emmetsburg at about 9:00 pm Wednesday. The three people on board — a nurse, Shelly (Shell) Lair-Langenbau; a paramedic, Russell (Russ) Piehl; and a pilot with Med-Trans, the helicopter service, did not survive the incident. There was not a patient on board.”

“I know their colleagues in healthcare are grieving the loss with their loved ones,” said Dan Varnum, President/CEO of Mercy-North Iowa. “The entire organization and I send prayers to all who knew them. They were committed and dedicated to serving the people of Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota.”

“They were each selfless healthcare professionals devoted to the delivery of emergency medical care. While they fulfilled significant duties, they played a greater role as our neighbors and friends.”

The cause of the incident is unknown. Mercy-North Iowa is working closely with law enforcement officials and the FAA who are investigating the accident. Members of Mercy-North Iowa’s Spiritual Care Department and counselors were available Wednesday and will continue to be available to provide support.

The helicopter was operated by a Lewisville, TX-based service company, Med-Trans Air Medical transport.

(Information from the Associated Press and KGLO Radio in Mason City)