VENTURA, Iowa (KTTC) -- Authorities have identified the three people who were killed when a medical transport helicopter crashed into a field about a mile north of Ventura, Iowa, Wednesday night.
The helicopter is affiliated with Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa Mason City and had been headed to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient.
The hospital identified the victims: nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl. We're told the pilot, Gene Grell, was not from Mason City but was in the process of moving there.
A man who lives near the crash scene tells KTTC that he heard a helicopter engine sputtering as it went overhead about 9 p.m. He heard it stop, then start again, then he heard a loud crash nearby.
Darrell Lewis of Ventura says he was heading west on Highway 18 in the freezing rain and says he noticed a helicopter flying low and lifting to the left. He says the next thing he saw was a huge ball of fire.
"By the time I got there, emergency units were responding," said Lewis. "Smoldering smoke and fire and not much left of the helicopter."
The crash scene is said to be a half mile west of the intersection of 260th Street and Balsam Avenue.
The helicopter was operated by a Lewisville, Texas-based service company, Med-Trans Air Medical Transport.
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