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Victims identified in medical helicopter crash

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—Officials have identified the three people critically injured early Saturday when an air ambulance helicopter crashed near the edge of Lake Winona in Alexandria.

The three crew members of the North Memorial Health Care helicopter were pilot Joshua Jones, 47, flight nurse Scott Scepaniak, 44, and flight paramedic Miles Weske, 34. All remain hospitalized at North Memorial Hospital in the Twin Cities, according to a release from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

All three were still in critical condition late Sunday, a North Memorial spokeswoman said.

The helicopter was on its way to pick up a patient from the Douglas County Hospital when it crashed along Lake Winona, north of the Alexandria Municipal Airport. There were no patients on board.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

A representative from the aircraft manufacturer was at the crash site Sunday, the sheriff's office said.

The wreckage of the helicopter may be removed by Monday and will be taken to Minneapolis for the rest of the investigation.

A preliminary report will be available from the National Transportation Safety Board within five days. A final report will be completed in nine to 12 months, the sheriff's office said.

The helicopter crashed about 2:07 a.m. Saturday.

Observations from the National Weather Service show that light fog was reported at the airport shortly after the crash but at the 2 a.m. reading, there was no reduction in visibility due to fog.

There were low ceilings - about 300 feet - because of cloud cover and winds were light, from the west-northwest about 11 mph.

Douglas County Hospital was notified of the medical helicopter crash and immediately activated its emergency response plan, calling in staff to assist in the response, according to Carl Vaagenes, the hospital's CEO.

"I am extremely proud of the response and performance from our staff and physicians who were working and everyone who responded to the emergency," Vaagenes said.

From the Douglas County Hospital, the victims were transferred to North Memorial in the Twin Cities, where they were in critical condition Saturday.

"I am extremely proud of our team members for their response at the site," Dr. J. Kevin Croston, CEO of North Memorial Health Care said in a news release Saturday. "Our immediate concern is with our crew members who are now being treated at North Memorial Medical Center. We are glad they are here. There is no better place to receive care."

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