Federal investigators arrived in central Minnesota over the weekend to launch a probe of a medical helicopter crash that occurred early Saturday morning, critically injuring all three people aboard.
The helicopter, operated by North Memorial Medical Center, was on its way to Alexandria Airport when it crashed at 2:07 a.m. on the northern perimeter of the airport, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The North Memorial Medical Center crew was based out of Brainerd, Minn., about 65 miles northeast of Alexandria and 100 miles north of Minneapolis. The pilot and two medical personnel were taken to Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria and then flown back to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, just northwest of Minneapolis. There were no patients aboard the helicopter at the time of the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent one investigator to the scene of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also investigating. Officials from both agencies are expected to remain in Alexandria for the next several days.
North Memorial Hospital owns and operates a fleet of eight twin-engine Agusta 109 helicopters out of six base locations throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The hospital’s Air Care medical helicopters respond to emergencies throughout the state in addition to parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas.
Built by the Italian manufacturer Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Agusta 109 helicopters can reach speeds up to 180 mph, making them the fastest civilian helicopter on the market, thee Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Investigators haven’t talked to the press about the crash, which remains under investigation. Weather conditions, mechanical failure, and pilot error are some of the major causes of helicopter crashes in the U.S., according to federal safety data.