UPDATE: Pilot of Crashed Medical Helicopter Identified
Gene Grell was the pilot flying the Med-Trans medical helicopter that crashed Wednesday night near Ventura, IA. He was one of three people killed in the crash.
Nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau is seen in the middle of the front row. Paramedic Russell Piehl is seen here on the far left of the middle row. The two members of the Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa Air Team were killed in the crash.
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The pilot flying a Med-Trans medical helicopter that crashed Wednesday night near Ventura, IA had been on the job for about 4 months. The details were released earlier Thursday during a press conference at Mercy Medical center-North Iowa in Mason City. Gene Grell was an employee of Med-Trans since September 2012. He recently went through training and was released to fly in October after logging 2,700 flight hours.
The helicopter Grell was flying was a new aircraft in 2011. It went through scheduled maintenance with no anomalies.
We now know the names of two of the victims of a fatal helicopter crash last night. The hospital has identified two of the victims.
Nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl were killed in the crash. The pilot's name has not been released.
The helicopter was operated by Med-Trans Air Medical Transport based out of Texas.
Witnesses say that the helicopter burst into flames when it went down around 9 p.m. Last night just north of Ventura, Iowa.
The aircraft was affiliated with Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa and was headed to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient.
We'll continue to keep you updated on this story as soon as more details become available.
Mercy Medical North released the following statement on the accident:
"I know their colleagues in healthcare are grieving the loss with their loved ones," said Dan Varnum, President/CEO, 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.