TOWN OF ELBA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two people are dead after a Mercy Flight helicopter crash in Genesee County Tuesday.
Police said New York State troopers responded to the crash near Norton Road around 1 p.m. Tuesday. There were two people on board and they were both killed. The cause of the crash is not known at this time, but the helicopter was on a training mission.
Police later identified the victims as James Sauer and Stewart Dietrick. Both were 60-years-old.
Sauer was an Afghanistan War veteran, a New York State Police civilian pilot and a pilot in the Army National Guard. He lived in Churchville. The Army said Sauer retired a Chief Warrant Officer in 2020. The Army said he logged more than 6,100 hours of military and civilian flight time. He began working with Mercy Flight in October 2020 just after he retired from the New York State Police and National Guard.
Dietrich was a Bell Helicopter flight instructor from Texas.
“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."
“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."
There were reports of power lines down in the area of the crash. But state police do not believe the lines caused the crash.
“I don't believe the lines caused the crash, but the aircraft may have struck the lines on the way down,” replied Major Staniszewski
Charlene Schultz, who lives nearby, says helicopters are constantly flying over her home.
She says she heard a motor noise that sounded “weird” like a car that wouldn't start.
“Then it came back on and I heard the big bang. I come running out and look for smoke,” recalled Schultz. “I knew it was going down. I could tell by the sound of the motor. It wasn't good — it wasn't good.”
Debris were off the shoulder of the road and more were in a field.
Investigators say it could be months before they can determine a cause.