BRAINERD, Minn. — North Memorial is now confirming the identities of the crew members who died during a North Memorial Air Care helicopter crash near Brainerd Airport, early on June 28. Pilot Tim McDonald and Nurse Deb Schott died at the scene. Josh Duda, the onboard paramedic, is currently at the Robbinsdale North Memorial hospital in critical condition.
The chopper went down around 1 a.m. A North Memorial spokesperson confirms the two casualties, and says no patients were aboard at the time of the crash. The pilot and a nurse died at the scene, while a third crew member was rushed to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. The spokesperson says they are not releasing information on his condition at this time.
(Editors note: KARE initially reported that all 3 crew members had perished. That was quickly corrected.)
An airport employee confirms conditions were extremely foggy at the time of the incident. KARE 11 meteorologist Sven Sundgaard says ground fog was dense in the area, with visibility at two tenths of a mile or less.
FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro says investigators from the agency are en route to Brainerd, and that the NTSB will lead the probe.
"We will fully cooperate with both agencies during their investigation of the incident. North Memorial Health is grateful for the expertise and efforts of the first responders who came to the accident scene including the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, Brainerd Police and Fire Departments and Baxter Police Department," reads a statement from North Memorial.
KARE 11 has a crew headed to Brainerd and will bring you information as it develops.
This is not the first recent crash involving a North Memorial helicopter. In September of 2016 a chopper went down in Alexandria, leaving three crew members in critical condition.
The North Memorial Air Care website says nine Agusta 109 helicopters, which can reach speeds of 180 mph, fly out of seven different bases in greater Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
"Our pilots are certified to 'fly by instrument,' making us agile enough to reach emergency scenes when weather has grounded other pilots," the website reads.