Wreckage of the helicopter that crashed along the shore of Lake Winona on Saturday was being pulled from the trees Monday as the investigation into what caused the crash continued.

The North Memorial Health Care helicopter was on its way to pick up a patient from the Douglas County Hospital when it crashed north of the Alexandria Municipal Airport. There were no patients on board.

The three crew members were identified as pilot Joshua Jones, 47, flight nurse Scott Scepaniak, 44, and flight paramedic Miles Weske, 34. All remain hospitalized at North Memorial Hospital in the Twin Cities, according to a release from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

A representative from the aircraft manufacturer was at the crash site Sunday, the sheriff’s office said.

The wreckage of the helicopter was removed by Wentworth Aircraft Inc. Monday and will be taken to Minneapolis for the rest of the investigation. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board, along with local utility crews, were on site Monday while the helicopter was being removed.

Further work at the site will be done by Ferguson Brothers Excavating of Alexandria and West Central Environmental Consultants of Morris.

A preliminary report from the NTSB should be available within five days. A final report will be completed in nine to 12 months, the sheriff’s office said.  

The helicopter crashed about 2:07 a.m. Saturday.

Observations from the National Weather Service show that light fog was reported at the airport shortly after the crash but at the 2 a.m. reading, there was no reduction in visibility due to fog.

There were low ceilings - about 300 feet - because of cloud cover and winds were light, from the west-northwest about 11 m.p.h.

Douglas County Hospital was notified of the medical helicopter crash and immediately activated its emergency response plan, calling in staff to assist in the response, according to Carl Vaagenes, the hospital's CEO.

"I am extremely proud of the response and performance from our staff and physicians who were working and everyone who responded to the emergency," Vaagenes said.

From the Douglas County Hospital, the victims were transferred to North Memorial in the Twin Cities, where they were in critical condition as of Sunday.

“I am extremely proud of our team members for their response at the site,” Dr. J. Kevin Croston, CEO of North Memorial Health Care said in a news release Saturday. “Our immediate concern is with our crew members who are now being treated at North Memorial Medical Center.  We are glad they are here.  There is no better place to receive care.”

Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies, Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Fire Department, Valley Med Flight and Life Link, also responded.

“We would like to thank our fellow health care colleagues and first responders for their amazing response to the helicopter incident Saturday morning,” North Memorial said in a statement issued Sunday. “We would also like to thank all of the health care professionals, EMS agencies, police agencies and fire departments for the support we have received from across the nation.”



Celeste Edenloff contributed to this report.