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January 3, 2013

3 killed in Iowa medevac crash

CERRO GORDO COUNTY, Iowa — Three crew members died Wednesday night when a medical helicopter crashed and burst into flames in a field in northern Iowa.

No patients were on board the helicopter from Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa when it slammed into the ground just north of Ventura in Cerro Gordo County around 9 p.m., according to The Associated Press.

The three crew members killed were paramedic Russell Piehl, nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and the pilot, who has not yet been named.

"I know their colleagues in healthcare are grieving the loss with their loved ones," said Dan Varnum, President/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 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.

Butch Kozisek, who lives less than a mile from the crash site, told the Des Moines Register he was watching TV when it happened.

"We heard what sounded like a helicopter," he said. "Normally, you can hear one coming. We didn't hear one coming. All of a sudden it was just really loud. And then it quit and a couple seconds later it was a big ball of fire with a mushroom cloud going up in the air.

The big ball of fire lasted for 3, 4 seconds. It lit up the sky. And then when the plume went out you could see a shallow fire."

The Federal Aviation Administration aircraft registry shows the Rotorcraft 407 helicopter (FAA #N445MT) is registered to Suntrust Equipment Finance & Leasing Corp. of Towson, Md., according to the article.

It was manufactured in 2009 by Bell Helicopter's Textron Canada division, and powered by a turbo-shaft 250-C47B engine designed by Rolls-Royce.