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Federal reports says icing conditions caused Iowa medical helicopter to crash in 2013


VENTURA, Iowa — Ice covering parts of a medical helicopter is what caused it to crash near Ventura in 2013, killing three people, according to a federal report.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on the Jan. 2, 2013, crash of the Mercy Air Med helicopter crash was released Thursday, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported ( ).

"It is likely that the pilot inadvertently encountered localized icing conditions, which resulted in his subsequent in-flight loss of helicopter control," the report said.

The helicopter was carrying pilot Gene Grell, nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russ Piehl. They were on their way to pick up a patient in Emmetsburg when the helicopter crashed into a farm field.

An NTSB report last year found that the helicopter was not equipped to fly in the wintery weather conditions. It had heated ports, but the rotor blades were not equipped with ice protection.

The final NTSB report said observations from the nearest Automated Surface Observing System, located about seven miles east of the accident site, indicated visibility appeared to be adequate for nighttime helicopter operations and did not detect any freezing precipitation.

Several pilots reported icing conditions in the region, but none of those reports were in the immediate vicinity of the intended route of the medical helicopter's flight, the NTSB report found.

Lair-Langenbau's family has filed a lawsuit against the operator of the helicopter service. A trial for the lawsuit has been set for Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Sioux City.

Information from: Globe Gazette,

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