A small commuter plane crashed late Tuesday night northwest of Gallatin Field Airport. Three people on board the Benefis Healthcare MercyFlight a pilot, a registered nurse and a paramedic were killed. The case is still under investigation and representatives at Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls would not release the victim’s names until their families were notified.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved friends, co-workers and members of our community,” Julie Hickethier, chief clinical officer at Benefis, told the Tribune. “This is a time of tremendous mourning for our entire organization.”
The commuter plane reportedly left Great Falls en route to Bozeman at 9:15 p.m. for patient transport. At midnight, Gallatin County’s coroner confirmed the deaths of those on board. Witnesses reported seeing an explosion in the sky northwest of Belgrade before the crash.
Members of the Gallatin County Search and Rescue team and Central Valley Fire Department found the wreckage while is was still burning. Gallatin County Sheriff Jim Cash says that the rescue efforts were hampered by the location of the accident, which is some 15 rural miles away from Gallatin Field. “It’s in a real rugged area, it’s not even on a gravel road. It’s in a real rugged area on private property, and it’s only accessible by four wheel drive, and then its marginal.”
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are currently at the crash scene. This is the second fatality involving a Benefis medevac aircraft. The first one occurred back in 19-87.