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Two killed when medical helicopter crashes in Genesee County

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Two people have been killed in the crash of a medical helicopter in western New York.

State police say the Mercy Flight helicopter went down in the Genesee County town of Elba while on a training mission at about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The victims were the only people in the helicopter when it crashed. No patients were on board.

Police said that the Mercy Flight pilot is identified as 60-year-old James Sauer of Churchville. He is a retired New York State Police civilian pilot. The other person who died in the crash is 60-year-old Stewart Dietrick of Prosper, Texas, who, according to Mercy Flight was a Bell Helicopter flight instructor. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

According to an article on the National Guard website, Sauer completed a 40-year as an army aviator in 2020. The article said he was "a veteran of the Afghanistan War with additional deployments to Somalia, the Horn of Africa and Latin and South America."

Rochester Police released a statement Tuesday night, confirming that Sauer also served as a city police officer from 1993 until 2001. The statement from Lt. Greg Bello said the the RPD is "heartbroken at the loss of Officer Sauer, who served a lifetime of dedication to public service. He is truly a hero to the Greater Rochester Community."

Margaret Ferrentino, Mercy Flight’s President, said that, "It goes without saying that our attention needs to be focused on the families of those lost and on our own employees as we deal with this unspeakable tragedy. "This is a very dark day for the Mercy Flight family, we are so grateful for the expressions of love, concern and support expressed by many."

"Mercy Flight has temporarily suspended operations in order to allow time for our employees to process the event, and to ensure the complete safe mechanical operation of our other helicopter spending a preliminary accident team investigation," said Scott Wooton, Mercy Flight’s Executive Vice President.

The FAA and NTSB will be assisting in the investigation which also involved State Police, Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Batavia Fire Dept. and the Elba Fire Dept.

Wooten said that the Mercy Flight Communications Center will remain operational and will refer any requests to other area resources who are standing by to assist.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.