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3 people die in medical helicopter crash in Iowa

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013

The company that owned the helicopter, Med-Trans Air Medical Transport, of Lewisville, Texas, identified the pilot as Gene Grell.

Med-Trans Air CEO Fred Buttrell said at a news conference that Grell didn't live in Mason City but had been looking to move there for his job. He did not say where Grell lived.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

Buttrell said the helicopter was equipped with a satellite tracking system that monitored its position and other information instead of the traditional onboard black box. He said it was in contact with the company's communications center during the flight and there was no emergency communication before it crashed.

He said it was not clear whether weather played a role in the crash. It was overcast, about 27 degrees with northwest wind of about 10 to 15 miles per hour at the time of the crash, according to National Weather Service records.

Buttrell said the pilots on medical flights are in command and make decisions about whether to fly.

"If anybody's not comfortable with accepting the mission we would not do it," he said.

The helicopter was in compliance with routine maintenance and daily inspections, he said.

Buttrell said Med-Trans has had no accidents since he joined it in 2006. Under previous ownership and a different company name, there was an accident in 2004, he said.

"We work on this daily so this is really tough for us," he said. "We're obviously going to go through and understand what unfolded but we've been very blessed to be a very safe organization."