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WNY mourns loss of pilot who died in Mercy Flight crash

2 On Your Side spoke with a friend of James Sauer who worked with him and wants WNY to remember his lifetime of service.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Friends, family, and co-workers are mourning the loss of James Sauer, 60, who died in Tuesday afternoon's Mercy Flight helicopter crash.

Sauer, who is from the Rochester area, was a retired Rochester and New York State Police Officer, as well as a U.S. Army veteran who had served in Afghanistan.

2 On Your Side spoke with a friend of his who worked with him and who wants people to remember that lifetime of service.

"The biggest thing I can say about him is that dedication to public service, and to his family, and to his coworkers and helping others," said Emily James, lead EMS Liaison at Catholic Health. James was a flight paramedic for 9 years at Mercy Flight.

"Just, I know the camaraderie with his crews, nobody ever questioned getting in an aircraft with him. There's so much trust there, he's such a good guy."

Those who knew Sauer said he had thousands of hours of experience flying helicopters, and that they would have a hard time believing that any pilot error caused the crash.

"I think of his wife and children and grandchildren and he was so proud of all of them and I think about his Mercy Flight family as well," added Emily James.

The victims have been identified as Sauer, 60, Churchville, and Bell Helicopter flight instructor/pilot Stewart M. Dietrick, 60, of Prosper, Texas.

Mercy Flight said Sauer began his career with them in October of 2020.

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board started its work, trying to determine why a Mercy Flight helicopter appeared to break apart and fall from the sky, into a farm field in the Town of Elba.

The NTSB is expected to look into the helicopter's flight data recorder to learn more about the crash. According to flight records, the aircraft had transported patients to or from Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, and Oishei Children's Hospital.

"You know we work side by side with them we have a very close relationship so any time their family is hurting our Catholic Health family is hurting as well," said Lori Dufresne, EMS Director at Catholic Health.

North Tonawanda Police, STAT MedEvac, and Wings Flights of Hope offered their own support on social media. Halligan's Tavern in Lockport shared on Instagram that they set a table for Sauer and remembered his "professionalism, demeanor and sense of humor."

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