Helicopter Crash Victims Memorialized

Posted at: 01/10/2013 10:42 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- A little more than a week after a medical helicopter crash killed three people in north Iowa, a community came together for a special memorial.

As could be expected, the mood was somber Thursday as hundreds of people made their way to the North Iowa Area Community College to remember the three people who died as heroes.

The crowd included many emergency service professionals from all over the area who came to honor their fellow first responders.

The memorial came as a sobering reminder of the dangers they face every day.

“We're the rescuers. We're here to take care of other people. We're here to respond to their requests for help,” said Joseph Ferrell, regulations manager for the Iowa Bureau of EMS. “We don't think of it happening to members of our own EMS family."

Shelly Lair-Langenbau, Russell Piehl, and Gene Grell were remembered as football fanatics, gracious neighbors, and above all, tireless professionals who dedicated their lives to serving others.

“They each had a great passion for their work,” said Dan Varnum, CEO of Mercy Medical Center North Iowa. “But my sense from the conversations I had was that none of them really saw it as work, but as their calling.”

Their friends and colleagues spoke of the countless individuals they helped in times of need, and how their own memories live on through those they saved.

“We can't even begin to think about and measure the positive impact that these three people have had on our community and on the lives of others,” Varnum said.

And while the memorial offered friends, family, and co-workers a chance to join together in remembrance, they all share a bond that will last much longer than an afternoon.

“The healing process is going to be a long process and so we're always going to have to be there for each other and supporting the family members, but it's a step towards closure,” said Med-Trans president Fred Buttrell.

Mourners said community support following the tragedy has been overwhelming and they ask for that continued support as friends and family work to move forward.