COPY-UPDATE: 3 killed in medical helicopter crash - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

COPY-UPDATE: 3 killed in medical helicopter crash

VENTURA, Iowa (FOX 47) --  Authorities have identified three people who were killed when a medical transport helicopter crashed into a field about a mile north of Ventura, Iowa, Wednesday night.

The helicopter is affiliated with Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa Mason City and had been headed to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient.

The hospital identified the victims: nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl. We're told the pilot, Gene Grell, was not from Mason City but was in the process of moving there.

A man who lives near the crash scene tells KTTC 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.

Darrell 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." 

The crash scene is said to be a half mile west of the intersection of 260th Street and Balsam Avenue.

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

A news conference took place at Mercy Medical Center- North Iowa at 11:00 a.m. The President & CEO of Med-Trans Air Medical expressed his concerns saying "I know this sounds trite but we work on this stuff daily so this is really tough for us. We're obviously going to go through and understand what unfolded."

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