Victims of the Mercy Helicopter Crash

Posted at: 01/03/2013 8:53 PM
Updated at: 01/04/2013 11:18 AM
By: Daren Sukhram

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Three people were killed on Wednesday night as they were traveling to help save another.

A Mercy Medical Center North Iowa helicopter crashed and burst into flames at 9:15 pm near Ventura, IA, according to a preliminary report by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Two of the people were Mercy employees and the third was a contract pilot.

Shelly "Shell" Lair-Langenbau, 44, was the nurse on board that flight.

The Hanlontown native had worked at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa for 15 years.

Lair-Langenbau graduated from North Iowa Area Community College in 1991.

She was the wife of Worth County Sheriff Jay Langenbau.

Funeral arrangements are currently pending with Major Erickson Funeral Home in Mason City.


Gene Grell, 53, was the the pilot of the helicopter that crashed.

He worked for Med-Trans Corporation, the company who operated the helicopter.

Grell, we're told, was making plans to make Mason City his home.


Russell Piehl, 48, was the paramedic on board that flight.

The Forest City native worked for Mercy Medical Center North Iowa for the last five years.

Funeral arrangements for Piehl are pending through Peterson Lund funeral home in Forest City.

Piehl's family released this statement to ABC 6 News Thursday evening:

My brother Russ died last night, doing what he loved to do most in this world. He was aboard a medical helicopter on it's way to help someone in need when it crashed. How many of us left behind live our lives doing what we love? He told me more than once that this was God's plan for him while on this earth.


Russ lived loving life in many ways. Whether it was riding his harley with Mel and his friends, pontooning on the lakes in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, bleeding "Packer Green and Gold" every year for as long as I can remember even when the Packers were really bad, and even spending time with Vicki and me.

The best way I can describe my brother is that I used to call him "A good old boy from a Good old town". Russ just wanted to be your friend. He wanted to share a beer of two with you and share stories. He just wanted to get along, and to give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.


Russ loved Mel, his kids and grandkids, and my heart aches for all of them. He also personally new Jesus and loved God, so I know that he is looking at the face of God right now. He is with my parents and grandparents in perfect peace enjoying paradise.

I love my brother Russ, and I know he loved me.


For additional details on the crash itself, click here.