Genesee County

Two Killed When Medical Helicopter Crashes in Upstate New York

No patients were on board at the time of the crash, authorities said.

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Two people aboard a medical helicopter were killed Tuesday when the aircraft crashed in western New York, according to state police.

The Mercy Flight helicopter went down in the Genesee County town of Elba while on a training flight at about 1 p.m., Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said at a news conference. The victims were believed to be the only people in the helicopter when it crashed. No patients were on board, authorities said.

A photo on the website of The Daily News of Batavia showed smoke rising from wreckage in a field.

Mercy Flight, based in Buffalo, transports patients to area hospitals in a Bell 429 helicopter, according to the not-for-profit company’s website. The twin-engine aircraft is housed at the Genesee County Airport, a little less than 3 miles from the crash site.

In a statement, Mercy Flight said that pilot James Sauer and a flight instructor from Bell Helicopter died in the crash, and that all operations had been suspended.

"It goes without saying that our attention needs to be focuses 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 Mercy Flight President Margaret Ferrentino.

Staniszewski said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board would investigate the cause of the accident. Weather did not appear to be a factor.

Downed power lines were visible near the wreckage but are not believed to have contributed, Staniszewski said.

“I don’t believe the lines caused the crash but the aircraft may have struck the lines on the way down,” he said.

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