Mercy Air Med Flight Crews Return to Sky
MASON CITY — The Mercy Air Med helicopter flight crew is back in service, hospital officials announced Tuesday.
“Today was our first day flying,” Chief Flight Nurse Bryan Williams said. “As of today we’re back on normal operations.”
The flight crew, which consists of five flight nurses, four paramedics and four pilots, has been grounded since the Jan. 2 crash of Mercy’s Air Med helicopter. All three crew members were killed, flight nurse Shell Langenbau, paramedic Russell Piehl and pilot Gene Grell.
“I think we’ll think about them every day,” Williams said. “We’ve had to get through some things, work through some emotions.”
The hospital is in the process of hiring members to replace those who were lost, he said.
On Tuesday a flight crew made the short flight from the hangar to the helipad at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in a temporary copter furnished by Med-Trans Corp. of Dallas, Texas.
Med-Trans contracts with Mercy-North Iowa to provide medical helicopter transportation service.
“Med-Trans Corp. has been amazing,” Williams said.
A new permanent helicopter should be in service in early March, he said. It will be the same model as the previous helicopter, a Bell 407.
In the meantime, the flight crew has been busy training to prepare for the day the flight service resumes. They’ve done a lot of helicopter flying, including with family members, Williams said.
“For all of us, it’s important,” he said. “This is what we love to do. We live to fly. We know there are patients out there that need our care. We’re still committed. We’re still striving for the highest level of excellence.”
Since Jan. 2, medical helicopter services from locations such as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Sioux City have been providing helicopter service for Mercy-North Iowa, Williams said.
“The most overwhelming and amazing part has been the support of the community and other flight programs,” he said.
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