Remembering Victims of Ventura Helicopter Crash

Posted at: 01/03/2013 10:41 PM
Updated at: 01/03/2013 10:45 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- As investigators work to figure out what caused a Mercy helicopter to crash in Ventura, Iowa, Wednesday night, people in north Iowa are remembering those who died.

Investigators were at the scene until 5 o'clock this afternoon. They say there isn't a timeline on when they'll have a final crash report.
In the meantime the main focus is remembering the lives lost and working to move forward.

As investigators sift through the wreckage searching for answers, we've learned the victims were 44 year old Shelly Lair-Langenbau of Hanlontown. She worked as a nurse at Mercy for 15 years. 48-year-old Russell Piehl of Forest City was a paramedic on the flight. He worked with Mercy for five years. The 53 year old pilot Gene Grell worked for Med-Trans, the company who operated the helicopter.

The three were remembered at a news conference Thursday morning.

Dan Vernum, president and CEO of Mercy – North Iowa called them "selfless health care workers who gave their lives to really providing care for others each and every day.”

And as friends and family try to cope with the loss of their loved ones, first responders with local fire and police departments are dealing with their own grief.

“What makes this worse is the victims in this case are people that we work with on a daily basis,” said Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals.

Authorities held a closed debriefing session Thursday for first responders to try and help deal with some of the emotions that come with working in such extreme situations. The session was intended to allow responders to talk about their experience in a safe and productive way.

“There’s a lot of mental anguish and stress and sorrow and grief that comes upon you and a lot of people don't know how to handle it, so it's a good way to debrief that,” Pals said.

Authorities say they will make counselors available for first responders, something Mercy - North Iowa is also doing to help their staff cope with the loss.

“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.

But for everyone involved, no matter how they move forward, it's surely an incident that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“The sad part is that you never forget them,” Pals said.

Funeral arrangements for Shelly Lair-Langebau, who is the wife of Worth County Sheriff Jay Langenbau, are pending at Major Erickson Funeral Home in Mason City.

Paramedic Russell Piehl's arrangments are being handled by Petersen - Lund Funeral Home in Forest City and are also pending.