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New York State Police: 2 killed in Mercy Flight helicopter crash identified

New York State Police say the crash happened in the Town of Elba near Norton Road around 1 p.m., but did not provide any further details.

ELBA, N.Y. — New York State Police are investigating a deadly crash in Genesee County involving a Mercy Flight helicopter.

Troopers say the crash happened in the Town of Elba near Norton Road around 1 p.m. Two people were in the helicopter at the time of the crash. Both were killed.

The victims have been identified as Mercy Flight Pilot James Sauer, 60, Churchville, NY and Bell Helicopter Flight instructor/pilot Stewart M. Dietrick, 60, of Prosper, TX.

Mercy flight said Sauer is a retired NYS Police Pilot, who began working with Mercy Flight in October 2020.

Mercy Flight released this statement:

At approximately 1:00 p.m EST today, the Mercy Flight Communications Center was notified that aMercy Flight helicopter had sustained an accident in the area of Elba, NY in Genesee County during Mercy Flight’s annual Bell Helicopter factory training. 

Mercy Flight Pilot James Sauer and a Bell Helicopter Flight instructor perished in the accident.  Mr. Sauer, a retired NYS Police Pilot, began working with Mercy  Flight in October 2020. 

“It goes without saying that our 

attention needs to be focused on the families of those lost and on our own employees as we deal with this unspeakable tragedy.  This is a very dark day for the  Mercy Flight family, we are so grateful for the expressions of love, concern, and support expressed by many,” said Margaret  Ferrentino, Mercy Flight’s  President.  

“Mercy Flight has temporarily suspended operations in order to allow time for our employees to process the event, and to ensure the complete safe mechanical operation of our other helicopters pending a preliminary accident team investigation. The Mercy Flight Communications Center will remain operational and will refer any requests to other area resources who are standing by to assist,” states Scott Wooton,  Mercy Flight’s Executive Vice  President.   

The cause of the accident has not been determined. FAA, NTSB, Bell  Helicopter and Underwriter  Accident Investigation teams are responding to the scene. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

According to New York State Major Eugene Staniszewski the helicopter had taken off for a training mission from the Batavia airport before the crash happened. It's unclear at this time why the helicopter crashed.

Credit: Alecia Kaus, Video News Service
A New York State Trooper takes a photo of a Mercy Flight helicopter that crashed in Genesee County. Two people on board were killed.

Staniszewski says New York State Police are working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"At this point it's very preliminary where we're at with this investigation. We cannot confirm anything as to why the helicopter went down," Staniszewski said.

The crash happened 3.1 miles from the airport where the helicopter was based near Batavia and there was downed power lines near the wreckage but NYSP does not believe that was the cause of the crash but may have been wrapped in the helicopter as it went down.

The helicopter was a town-engine Bell 429 and which is the model type for most of the fleet for Mercy Flight, they updated their fleet within the last decade.

Kaleida Health issued this statement following the accident: 

“We are aware of the tragic accident involving a Mercy Flight helicopter that crashed today in the Town of Elba in Genesee County. Our hospital transport teams were not impacted by the crash. 

At this time, we understand that Mercy Flight services are grounded. Patient transports to our facilities will continue by ground as usual.  

Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Mercy Flight team and their loved ones. Kaleida Health will remain focused on supporting our partners at Mercy Flight as this investigation unfolds.”

ECMC released this statement:

Our ECMC Family is deeply saddened by the news of the Mercy Flight aircraft crash today that took the lives of two Mercy Flight caregivers. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones, as well as the entire Mercy Flight organization. ECMC and Mercy Flight are deeply connected in caring for our community and tonight we offer them our deepest, heartfelt condolences.

Catholic Health issued the following statement.

All of us at Catholic Health extend our condolences and prayers to the entire Mercy Flight family and their loved ones. We are grateful to partner with them in their lifesaving work, which has helped so many in our community.

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