On April 26, 2022, a Mercy Flight helicopter crashed in Genesee County, New York, killing both people on board. The fatal medical helicopter crash happened at approximately 1:00 p.m. local time near Norton Road between Edgerton Road and Ford Road in the town of Elba. No patients were aboard the helicopter at the time of the crash.
Authorities say the two men in the Bell 429 medical helicopter were conducting a training mission out of the Mercy Flight station at the Genesee County Airport when something went wrong just under two hours into the flight. Witnesses heard a loud boom before the chopper fell from approximately 2,000 feet. The chopper briefly caught fire after impact.
According to investigators, the Bell helicopter’s tail boom separated from the aircraft and was found about 300 feet from the rest of the helicopter. It is not immediately clear why the tail boom separated from the helicopter.
Victims of New York Medical Helicopter Crash Identified
The two men flying the helicopter were both “highly seasoned” pilots, according to media reports. One of them, 60-year-old James Sauer of Churchville, New York, was a retired Rochester Police Officer who also worked as a pilot for the New York State Police and the National Guard. He was working as a Mercy Flight pilot at the time of the crash. Mr. Sauer leaves behind a wife, Marie, two adult children, and grandchildren.
The other pilot, 60-year-old Stewart M. Dietrick of Prosper, Texas, worked as a Bell Helicopter flight instructor.
Helicopter Crash Lawyer Discusses Possible Cause of Mercy Flight Crash in New York
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the cause of the fatal medical helicopter crash in upstate New York. Helicopter crash investigations usually take between 12 and 36 months to complete. Investigators will release a preliminary report based on early findings in May. The final report will include the cause (or causes) of the crash as well as safety recommendations to help prevent similar crashes from happening.
Baum Hedlund Vice President Ronald L. M. Goldman, who is also the firm’s senior trial attorney, has litigated numerous lawsuits stemming from helicopter crashes, including cases involving Bell Helicopters. In an interview with Buffalo News, Goldman noted that mechanical failure is a distinct possibility in the Mercy Flight crash because Sauer and Dietrick were both "really experienced pilots."
"It's hard to swallow that there's pilot error in this case," Goldman said. "... You have two experienced pilots doing recurrent training. Unless somebody did something that is off the charts, there shouldn't be an accident here. But we don't know what happened. One has to be suspicious of some kind of mechanical failure in an event like this."
Goldman noted that the wreckage site should provide clues as to what may have caused the crash.
"When you find the tail boom some 300 yards away from the rest of the helicopter, you have to start worrying, Goldman said. "Every one of these pieces is a puzzle, and the pieces of the puzzle have to be brought together.”
Goldman is currently representing the family of Buffalo businessman Mark Croce, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2020. That crash involved an “in-flight break-up,” according to an NTSB report. Witnesses said the helicopter was "struggling to fly," and reported hearing "a high-pitched noise as if the rotor was having difficulty turning."
Baum Hedlund Aviation Attorneys | Proven Track Record in Medical Helicopter Crash Cases
The Baum Hedlund law firm has decades of experience litigating helicopter crash cases. Our track record of success in aviation accident cases includes over half a billion in recoveries for victims of plane and helicopter crashes, including several involving Bell Helicopters.
Since 1973, our firm has successfully represented clients in many medevac-air ambulance aviation accidents involving airplanes and helicopters. Below are some of our medical helicopter crash cases:
Los Angeles Fire Department Medical Rescue Helicopter Crash
Our firm successfully represented the families of three Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics who tragically lost their lives in a medical helicopter crash. This was a products liability trial against Bell Helicopter for a tail rotor failure. Baum Hedlund aviation attorneys successfully changed aviation product liability law in an earlier Appeals Court decision stemming from this case.
Colorado Medical Helicopter Crash
In this case, our firm successfully represented a paramedic injured when an Air Methods Bell 206L3 medical helicopter crashed in Bayfield, Colorado. At the time of the crash, the Bell medical helicopter was attempting to evacuate an injured hiker.
SkyLife Medical Helicopter Crash
We represented the mother and father of a teacher who was killed in a 2015 medical helicopter crash. Our lawsuit alleged that Fresno-based Rogers Helicopters Inc. of negligence in the operation and maintenance of the medical helicopter known as SkyLife 4.
Our firm knows what it takes to go up against big companies and win. Across all areas of practice, we have recovered more than $4 billion for clients. To schedule a free and confidential case evaluation, please give us a call at 855-948-5098 today.