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Three Killed in North Iowa Helicopter Crash

Posted at: 01/03/2013 7:22 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It’s a flight made hundreds of times a year.

But Wednesday night, on the edge of a farm field near Ventura, Iowa, a routine flight ended in tragedy.

"Mercy Air Med went down at approximately 9:00 PM last night," said Dan Varnum, President and CEO of Mercy Medical Center North Iowa.

The helicopter was on its way to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient when it crashed with a crew of three aboard. All three were killed.

"We heard a helicopter go by and it sounded very close to the house," said Gabe Haugland. He lives about two miles from the crash site, and has military experience with helicopters.  "The chopper, the rotor wash just sounded a little harsh to me. It sounded like the chopper was really working hard."

The chopper was new in 2011, and had gone through scheduled maintenance with no problems. Gabe Haugland didn't hear the sound of the crash, but a neighbor did.  "The wife was asleep and the explosion from the crash actually woke her up.”

“The cause of the incident is unknown at this time. We're working closely with law enforcement officials," said Mercy North Iowa’s Dan Varnum

Along with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board. Mercy-North Iowa does about 500 flights per year ... and the medical center says it's dedicated to keeping the program.

"We will be down for a little while. We don't know how long that will be," Mercy President and CEO Dan Varnum explained.

Because the priority right now is healing.

"We're working with our chaplains and our counseling staffs and our employee assistance program to really reach out to our colleagues across the entire medical center," Varnum said.

“These are people who gave their lives to safe others, and it's a tragedy" said witness Gabe Haugland.