3 Killed in Medical Helicopter Crash in Lee County

Pilot, two nurses killed after medical chopper goes down

By Lauren Petty and Alexandra Clark
|  Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012  |  Updated 10:07 PM CDT
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Pilot and two nurses killed in Monday accident.

Pilot and two nurses killed in Monday accident.

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3 Killed in Medical Helicopter Crash in Lee County

The helicopter was traveling from Rockford Memorial Hospital to a hospital in Mendota, Ill. when it crashed around 8:30 p.m. Three on board were killed. NBC Chicago's Anthony Ponce reports.
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A community is in mourning following the deaths of three people in a medical helicopter crash in Lee County Monday night.

A pilot and two nurses from Rockford Memorial Hospital were killed while enroute to to a hospital in Mendota, Ill.

Pilot Andy Oleson and flight nurses Jim Dillow and Karen Hollis were identified as the deceased.

The last communication with the helicopter was a radio call from Oleson that the crew was experiencing bad weather and were headed back to Rockford.

Shortly afterward, the helicopter went down in a cornfield in Compton, a small town near Rochelle. The debris scattered across the entire field, according to Lee County Sheriff John R. Varga.

"These are individuals whose careers have been dedicated to saving and helping other people. To have them lost on a mission where they were going to help somebody in need of those services, adds to that pain," said Rockford Hospital's Gary Kaatz.

Dillow and Hollis worked at the hospital for 10 years. Olson, a father of two and a grandfather, learned to fly in Vietnam and was scheduled to retire next week.

"We all realized what the risks were but we never really worried about him because we knew it was what he did," Olson's wife, Pat, said.

Officials with the NTSB, FAA and the Lee County Sheriff were going through the wreckage on Tuesday.

The helicopter they were flying was 25 years old and averaged 600 flights a year, but the head of the hospital's acute care helicopter program insists it was well maintained.

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