ELBA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Mercy Flight helicopter crashed Tuesday afternoon in the Town of Elba, New York State Police said, killing two people who were on board.

The crash occurred around 1 p.m. near Norton and Edgerton roads, about 10 minutes north of Batavia. Officials said they believed the helicopter was on a training exercise.

Mercy Flight identified pilot James Sauer of Churchville, N.Y. as one of the victims in the crash. The other was identified as Bell pilot Stewart Dietrick of Prosper, Texas. Both men were 60 years old.

“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,” Mercy Flight President Margaret Ferrentino said. “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.”

Scott Wooton, Mercy Flight’s vice president, said the organization has suspended operations to give employees time to process the event and ensure complete safe mechanical operation of other helicopters.

“The Mercy Flight Communications Center will remain operational and will refer any requests to other area resources who are standing by to assist,” he said.

Officials said the helicopter took down some power lines in the crash, but the lines are not believed to be the cause of the crash.

The NTSB is expected to arrive Wednesday to conduct an the investigation. They told News 4 it was a Bell 429 helicopter that crashed.

Bell also commented on the crash.

“All of us at Bell are extremely saddened to hear the news of the accident that resulted in the loss of two pilots, including one of our Bell teammates,” Senior Communications Manager Lindsey Hughes said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the families involved, we are unable to answer questions or share information at this time.”

A witness who spoke with News 4 said the helicopter didn’t sound right before the crash.

“Helicopters come over constant. But this — the motor sounded weird,” the resident said. “You know when your start your car and it goes [car noise]? That’s what it sounded like to me – twice. Then it went out completely. Then it came back on and I heard the big bang.”

Governor Kathy Hochul posted a statement on Twitter regarding the crash.

“My heart is with the loved ones of the two New Yorkers lost in today’s @mercyflightwnyhelicopter crash in Genesee County. Their dedication and commitment to helping others will not be forgotten. @nyspolice are on the scene and continuing to investigate,” the tweet said.

Mercy Flight has an airport on E. Saile Drive in Batavia. The crash scene is roughly three miles from there.

News 4’s sister station, WROC in Rochester, spoke with James Sauer about his 40-year military flight career after his final National Guard flight in 2020. He spoke on his service in the community and around the world. That story can be seen at this link.

Sauer enlisted in the Army in 1979 and retired from the New York Army National Guard in November 2020. His last assignment in the military was at Albany International Airport.

The full press conference with NYSP Major Eugene Staniszewski can be seen below.

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.