ELBA, N.Y. (WROC) — Two people are dead after a Mercy Flight helicopter crashed in Genesee County Tuesday afternoon. Investigators say it happened during a training mission.

According to New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski, the helicopter crashed near Edgerton and Norton Roads around 1:00 p.m. in the Town of Elba.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, although weather is not believed to be a factor. Maj. Staniszewski said the helicopter may have hit power lines as it went down.

“I don’t believe the lines caused the crash, but the aircraft may have struck the lines on the way down.”

The Mercy Flight helicopter pilot involved in the crash has been identified as James Sauer, 60, a retired New York State Police pilot from Churchville. Sauer was also a former Rochester police officer, having served with the RPD from 1993 until 2001.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Officer Sauer, who served a lifetime of dedication to public service,” said Lt. Gregory Bello. “He is truly a hero to the Greater Rochester Community.”

Sauer spoke with News 8 in 2020, when he celebrated the end of his 40-year military flight career.

The other victim was Bell Helicopter pilot Stewart Dietrick, 60, from Texas.

Investigators said at least one person may have witnessed the incident. Police said they were working to confirm reports that the helicopter’s engine was heard cutting in and out before the crash.

Authorities say NTSB, FAA, and Mercy Flight will continue to investigate the crash, and that crews plan on being at the scene through Wednesday. The investigation in full could take months to complete.

Mercy Flight has a hangar at an airport on E. Saile Drive in Batavia. The crash scene is approximately three miles from there. Maj. Staniszewski said the helicopter had taken off from that airport.

Nearby roads in the area are closed as crews investigate and motorists are encouraged to avoid the area.

Mercy Flight is a non-profit provider of emergency and non-emergency air and ground medical transport that serves throughout the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions of the state.

Mercy Flight Central released a statement Tuesday evening, saying: “Our hearts are with Mercy Flight Inc. and all those involved in the aircraft mishap earlier today in Genesee County. We stand with them during this tragic time.

Location

A Mercy Flight helicopter crashed at an airport in Genesee County back in October after the helicopter tried to land normally after returning from Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, but made a hard landing.

In the October crash, the underside of the fuselage was damaged, but everyone inside the helicopter safely got out, authorities said at the time.

Watch the full police briefing


Check back with News 8 WROC as we have a crew at the scene and will continue to update this developing story.