The incident occurred at 01:00 hrs at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Airport Director Steve Wright told the Minnesota news platform Star Tribune that the AgustaWestland A-109 aircraft went down in foggy conditions inside a fenced area at the airport. He also said that he did not know what caused the crash and was awaiting results of a pending investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The FAA's Elizabeth Isham Cory noted that the NTSB will oversee the investigation.
Gary Schott confirmed that it was his wife, Deb Schott, 58, who was the nurse who died. Schott’s daughter, Air Force Tech Sergeant Kristie Collins, said her mother had worked with the air ambulance service for 15 years and had also worked as an emergency room nurse for 30 years. Collins noted that Schott was returning from a medical call at the time of the crash. “She’s always been about helping people,” she added.
Authorities also released the names of the pilot and crew member over the weekend: Tim McDonald, 44, the helicopter's pilot, and Joshua Duda, 42, the paramedic who was injured. McDonald's and Duda's families have requested privacy, a North Memorial spokeswoman said.
Sources have disclosed that no patients were onboard the helicopter when it crashed, and a statement released by the North Memorial Health hospital detailed that Duda was taken to St Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd – his condition has not been disclosed.
Wright remarked that first responders, which included the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, Brainerd police and fire departments and the Baxter Police Department, ‘did a stellar job’. He also explained that ninety employees work at 13 businesses based at the airport, including two medical helicopter emergency management crews.
“We’re a really close-knit community. So, these people that fly in the helicopters, people that are flying on the airplanes, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. So, it does really hit hard,” Wright said. “Please share thoughts and prayers with the friends and families of the crews that lost their lives.”
A prayer vigil for the crash victims was held at 19:00hrs on Sunday at Whipple Beach Recreational Area in Baxter, Minnesota.