Three die in helicopter crash


Investigation continues into cause of Mercy Med-Trans crash

Three people were killed Wednesday evening, Jan. 2, when Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa’s Air Med helicopter crashed north of Ventura.


The Mason City hospital-based helicopter crashed while en route to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient. The accident was reported to a 9-1-1 dispatcher at approximately 9 p.m.

The three people on board — a nurse, Shelly “Shell” Lair-Langenbau; a paramedic, Russell “Russ” Piehl; and a pilot with the helicopter service owned by 

Med-Trans, Gene Grell, were killed in the crash, according to officials at Mercy-North Iowa. There was no patient on board. Lair-Langenbau had been a Mercy employee since 1998; Piehl was a Mercy employee since 2007; and Grell had been with Med-Trans since September 2012. He recently went through training and was released to fly in October after logging 2,700 flight hours. 

The patient, who the helicopter was receiving, was transferred to Mercy – North Iowa via ground ambulance. 

“I know their colleagues in health care are grieving the loss with their loved ones,” said Dan Varnum, president and 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 health care professionals devoted to the delivery of emergency medical care.  While they fulfilled significant duties, they played a greater role as our neighbors and friends.”

Investigation into the crash is continuing.  Officials say there was not a black box on board the helicopter; however there is a satellite tracking system-providing positioning and aircraft information.

The helicopter had been in the air only a short time when the accident occurred about 30 miles from take-off.  Light freezing drizzle was reported in North Iowa Wednesday night.  Fog and mist were reported at 8 p.m. at the Mason City airport, according to KIMT Chief - Read More Via e-Edtion

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