The stories of the decade

(Above) Three persons were killed when Mercy Medical Center’s Air Med helicopter crashed north of Ventura in 2013.

by Marianne Gasaway

Looking back on the year just passed has become a tradition at the Mirror-Reporter, but ranking stories from a decade is an exercise we have never tackled.  The staff of the Mirror-Reporter decided to take on the challenge and compile our list of the top 10 stories considered to have been the most newsworthy 2010-2019.   

Did we nail it?

We invite you to let us know what other events you consider to be the most influential in the last decade.  Send us your favorites via letter, email, or on Facebook.

#1 A well kept secret

The biggest story of the decade occurred in 2015.  Well, it was actually the same story which topped the 2014 year in review. In February, the McKesson Corporation, the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America, was introduced as the future tenant of a 340,000 square foot building under construction in the city’s Larry Luker Memorial Industrial Park.  Clear Lake city officials made the announcement to coincide with an agenda released by the State of Iowa’s Economic Development Commission which identified McKesson as an applicant for $4.6 million in state tax credits, as well as a $170,000 forgivable loan. The state incentives, offered through the High Quality Jobs Program, were awarded.

More than 100 people packed the Council Chambers at City Hall to hear the announcement of the “mystery company” which would create 164 jobs with an average salary of $39,000. It was reported the $65 million project is expected to have an estimated impact of $310 million over the next 10-years.

City Administrator Scott Flory said there was great due diligence done in pursuing McKesson, but recruitment efforts were complicated by the company’s insistence that its identity remain anonymous. None of Clear Lake’s City Council members knew the company when they approved a local incentive package which included a $1.675 million, 10-year forgivable loan used for land acquisition and site development, and a property tax rebate with an estimated cumulative value of not to exceed $7.3 million over a 20-year period.

#2 Medical helicopter crashes

The year 2013 started with a tragedy which shocked North Iowans.  Three people were killed 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.

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 that night. Fog and mist were reported at 8 p.m. at the Mason City airport, according to KIMT Chief Meteorologist Adam Frederick. The temperature was 27 degrees. Overcast conditions were reported at 9 p.m. The helicopter, owned by Med-Trans of Dallas, Texas, crashed along a fence line about one mile north of Ventura near the intersection of County Road S-14 and 260th Street. It was in transit from Mason City toward Emmetsburg at the time of the accident.

Neighbors in rural Ventura said they heard the helicopter sputtering and then heard a loud explosion and saw a burst of flames.

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