REACT Helicopter Crash
Update: The REACT Helicopter crashed in a field, near the area of 251 and 30, near Compton Illinois.
Authorities say a medical helicopter has crashed in northern Illinois, killing all three people on board.
At approximately 8:30 p.m., C.S.T., on Monday, December 10, Rockford Memorial Hospital’s REACT helicopter crashed in a field south of Rochelle, Ill., in Lee County. There were no survivors. The crew members on the aircraft were Pilot Andy Olesen; Flight Nurse Jim Dillow, R.N.; and Flight Nurse Karen Hollis, R.N.
Update: During the 10:30 press conference, RHS said around 7:30 pm last night, they received a call from Mendota Hospital to transfer an adult patient who was critically ill. The REACT helicopter was en route, when they radioed back and said they were encountering weather and were going to turn back. A short time later, they lost contact with the REACT helicopter.
The following are brief biographies of the three REACT crew members who were killed when the aircraft went down in a field south of Rochelle, Ill., in Lee County.
Flight Nurse Jim Dillow, R.N., joined Rockford Memorial Hospital in 1996. He was an experienced critical care nurse and emergency room nurse and had more than 10 years of experience as a flight nurse.
Flight Nurse Karen Hollis, R.N.,
Pilot Andy Olesen was employed by Air Methods, our contracted provider of aircraft services. Andy was an experienced pilot when he began flying for Air Methods in 1994 and had been a pilot for REACT for about five years.
Thank you for all your continued support and well wishes!
The Federal Aviation Administration reports the helicopter crashed Monday night while traveling from Rockford, near the Wisconsin border, to a hospital about 60 miles south in Mendota.
The helicopter was registered to Rockford Memorial Hospital. Hospital spokeswoman Laura Maher says no patients were on board when the helicopter crashed into a field in Rochelle, about midway between the two cities.
Maher didn’t have additional information about the flight crew on board, but says crews generally consist of two nurses and a pilot.
The FAA says the helicopter was destroyed and all three people on board were killed.
Maher says emergency responders are on the scene.
Rockford is about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.
Around 8:30pm Monday night a REACT medical helicopter, flying from Rockford Memorial Hospital, crashed in a field south of Rochelle, Illinois killing the pilot and two flight nurses. While the Federal Aviation Administration and The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash, weather is a suspect not worth overlooking.
Normally, we think of wind shear and severe thunderstorms as the main causes for air disasters. In this case, the helicopter was likely flying through super-cooled water droplets. These unfrozen droplets can exist in the atmosphere in liquid form, even though the temperature of the atmosphere is below freezing. As an aircraft flies into these droplets, the cold fuselage comes in contact with the cold water, causing ice to form on the aircraft and wings (or in the case of helicopters, rotors). The accumulation of ice may not be noticed by pilots and passengers during night flying and if it is, usually the pilot can ascend or descend to a different flight level where the ice won’t accumulate or will melt. It is not immediately known whether the helicopter involved in Monday’s crash had deicing equipment.
Icing is dangerous because of a few reasons. 1.) It can change the aerodynamics of the aircraft; proper aerodynamics are needed to ensure there is enough lift to keep the vessel in the air. 2.) Ice can produce a significant amount of weight, causing the rotors to spin too slow to maintain flight. 3.) Ice can cause blockages of pitot tubes and vents. This can cause errors in instruments such as altimeters and airspeed indicators. 4.) Ice formation on unheated parts of the aircraft can affect the ability of radio transmission. 5.) Ice accumulation that falls off of aircraft may damage necessary pieces of equipment for flight.
Conditions at Rochelle, the nearest airport to the crash site, were cloudy with intermittent snow showers and flurries. At flight level, it is certainly possible that the crew ran into low clouds and super-cooled water droplets, which could’ve caused icing. Shortly after we confirmed the crash, I spoke with Casey Sullivan, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Illinois. He could not confirm whether icing was a factor. “We did not receive any reports of any icing in that area from aircraft, but that’s not to say it wasn’t possible.”
Since there were no survivors or pilot reports in the area, we must look to the profile of the atmosphere from this evening’s balloon launch at the Davenport, Iowa National Weather Service Office. To the left is the vertical profile of the atmosphere around Northern Illinois this evening. Meteorologists and pilots refer to these charts as “Skew-T Log P” diagrams. What’s important to know is the red line represents the temperature (slightly below freezing at the ground (bottom)), with a steady decrease as you ascend into the atmosphere (top). The green line is the dewpoint. The air is completely saturated where the green and red lines are very close together. This occurred from near the surface, up to about 5,955 feet. This is the most likely area for super-cooled water droplets to be present within the atmosphere. Unfortunately, most medical helicopters travel at a level below 5,955 feet…making the threat of aircraft icing a real and present danger if the aircraft did not have deicing equipment.
The accident happened near Melugins Grove and Stainbrook Road just south of I-88 around 8:30pm. Rescue crews are on scene. There were reportedly three crew members, but no patients on board and reportedly no survivors. The helicopter was on its way to Mendota to pick up a patient.
We have a crew on the scene and will bring you more information as soon as it’s available. According to RMH’s website, since 1987 REACT has completed more than 10,000 flights and 15,000 hours without incident.
UPDATE: The FAA has confirmed three people were killed when a REACT helicopter crashed near Rochelle. The medical helicopter was traveling from Rockford Memorial Hospital to Mendota when it crashed in a field in Lee County, near Compton. The National Transportation Safety Board is now handling the investigation.
LEE COUNTY (WIFR) — Breaking news out of Lee County. We’ve learned a React helicopter has crashed near route 251 and U.S. 30, south of Rochelle. The Lee County Sheriff’s Department will not release any information over the phone. One of our reporters is on the way. We’ll bring you the latest information online and tomorrow on 23 News This Morning.
Around 8:30 p.m. Monday night, a REACT medical helicopter crashed into a field just south of Rochelle near US-30 and IL-251. The helicopter flies for Rockford Health System. Rockford Health System representative Wester Wuori says three crew members were riding; a pilot and two flight nurses. All three personnel were killed. According to Wuori, there were no patients on-board.
Cause of the crash is still unknown, Wuori believes it might be weather-related. Casey Sullivan, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Romeoville, Illinois says flurries and light snow were reported with the 8:00pm automatic weather observation at Rochelle Municipal Airport. The temperature was 30 degrees with a wind out of the west at 7 mph. He could not confirm whether icing was a factor in the crash. “We did not receive any reports of any icing in that area from aircraft, but that’s not to say it wasn’t possible” he says. WREX Chief Meteorologist Eric Sorensen explains that the air was saturated and the temperatures were right around freezing at flight level. “Aircraft icing disrupts the aerodynamics around aircraft fuselage and can add a significant amount of weight which can cause the aircraft to become unstable.”