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Initial Report: Ice May Have Caused Northern Iowa Copter Crash
Ice might have been a factor in a northern Iowa helicopter ambulance crash that killed three emergency workers earlier this month, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released Friday.
The helicopter was bound for Emmetsburg from Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa when it crashed near Ventura shortly before 9 p.m. on January 2. Pilot Gene Grell, flight nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl all died in the crash. No patients were aboard.
A volunteer firefighter who responded to the crash told investigators that a coat of ice formed on his truck’s windshield the evening of the crash, and that he was forced to take a different vehicle to respond to the emergency.
The firefighter said he heard the helicopter while working in the garage of his Ventura home. “The sound of the helicopter changed as it was turning, followed by what he described as a ‘thump’ and then everything was quiet,” the report says.
The report is the first issued in a lengthy investigation process. Another report is expected within a month. A final report, which should include a probable cause in the crash, could take up to 18 months.