UPDATE: Two victims identified in IA medical helicopter crash - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UPDATE: Two victims identified in IA medical helicopter crash

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Authorities have identified 2 of 3 people who were killed when a medical helicopter crashed into a northern Iowa field.

Witnesses told deputies that the helicopter burst into flames when it went down around 9 p.m. Wednesday just north of Ventura in Cerro Gordo County. The aircraft was affiliated with Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa and had been headed to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient.

The hospital identified 2 of the victims: nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl.

The pilot was not identified. The helicopter was operated by a Lewisville, Texas-based service company, Med-Trans Air Medical Transport. Company officials didn't immediately return messages left Thursday by The Associated Press.

Sheriff Kevin Pals says the crash cause is being investigated.

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VENTURA, Iowa (KTTC) -- A medical transport helicopter believed to be from North Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, Iowa, has crashed into a field about a mile north of Ventura.

The town is due west of Mason City.

Eyewitnesses on the scene are reporting that there were no survivors.

It's unclear how many people were on board when the helicopter went down.

A man who lives near the crash scene tells KTTC's Robin Wolfram that he heard a helicopter engine sputtering as it went overhead about 9 p.m.  He heard it stop, then start again, then he heard a loud crash nearby.

A spokesperson for North Mercy Medical Center declined to confirm details of the crash, but indicated that a news briefing would be held at the emergency room entrance of the hospital shortly. 

Derrell Lewis of Ventura says he was heading west on Highway 18 in the freezing rain and says he noticed a helicopter flying low and lifting to the left.  He says the next thing he saw was a huge ball of fire.

"By the time I got there, emergency units were responding," said Lewis.  "Smoldering smoke and fire and not much left of the helicopter." 

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