Benefis Healthcare has released the names of the Mercy Flight crew members who died in Tuesday night’s crash en route to Bozeman to pick up a patient. Killed were Vince Kirol, 58, the pilot; Darcy Dengel, 27, registered nurse, and Paul Erickson, 33, paramedic.
Kirol has been flying for 40 years. He has been an air ambulance pilot for 13 years and a Mercy Flight fixed wing pilot for 12 years. He is survived by his wife, Diana, and two sons.
A graduate of the Montana State Univeristy School of Nursing, Dengel was hired at Benefis in 2001 and was transferred to the emergency room two years later. She has been flying since August 2005. She was engaged to be married to a member of the Great Falls Police Department.
Erickson was hired at Benefis in 2004 and was granted flight status in April 2005. His wife, Rachelle, is trauma coordinator at Benefis. They are parents of a 7-month-old son.
The twin engine, Beechcraft 200 1300 Super King Air 200 commuter plane was traveling for patient transport when it crashed at 9:15 p.m., 15 miles northwest of Gallatin Field Airport, according to the Federal Avia-tion Administration’s initial report. A witness reported seeing a fireball near the crash scene Tuesday night, according to the Bozeman Chronicle. Gallatin County search and rescue members combed the area on all-terrain vehicles, searching for the wreck-age. The plane went down near a muddy road in the Horsehoe Hills near Menard and Skinner roads. The crash remains under investigation.
Benefis has grounded its remaining aircraft, the Mercy Flight helicop-ter, until the flight teams can be debriefed. In the interim, hospitals in Billings, Missoula and Kalispell are assisting Benefis in patient air trans-ports.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved friends, co-workers and members of our community,” said Julie Hickethier, chief clinical officer. “This is a time of tremendous mourning for our entire organization.”
This is the second fatality for a Mercy Flight aircraft; the first accident occurred in 1987 with crew members from Montana Deaconess and Co-lumbus hospitals on board.