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3 flight crew members killed in medical copter crash

Associated Press

Hazelhurst, Wis. – A medical helicopter crashed in a heavily wooded area in northern Wisconsin, killing all three people on board, authorities said Friday.

Search and rescue crews found the Ascension Health Spirit helicopter early Friday after Oneida County sheriff’s dispatchers received a call that it was missing, according to Chief Deputy Dan Hess. The wreckage was found near Hazelhurst, a small town about 150 miles northwest of Green Bay.

The three people killed were flight crew members, and no patients were on board when the helicopter crashed, Hess said. The victims’ identities have not been released pending notification of their families.

The three are believed to have died on impact, Oneida County Medical Examiner Larry Mathein told Wausau TV station WAOW. He said the body of the pilot is being sent for an autopsy under standard protocol.

Authorities said the last known contact with the helicopter was at 10:55 p.m. Thursday. Dispatchers received a call that the chopper was missing 25 minutes later, and a search was launched.

“It’s heavily wooded terrain and hard to get to,” said Tom Ryden, whose local business, R & R Motor Sports, provided three amphibious all-terrain vehicles and helped searchers reach the rural crash site.

Ryden said the area is also hilly with high ridges and swamps.

The medical helicopter departed from Madison late Thursday and was headed to Woodruff when it crashed about 12 miles south of its destination, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ascension Health, a nonprofit health system, has not returned messages from The Associated Press seeking further details about the crash. Mathein’s office also didn’t return messages from the AP.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation. At least eight agencies were involved in the search.