Two crew members killed in LifeSaver helicopter crash in Shelby County

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – A life-saving attempt turned into a tragedy with multiple deaths on Sunday night, April 2, as two crew members of a LifeSaver helicopter have been confirmed dead by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office after a helicopter crash near the intersection of County Road 43 and Mountain Oaks Drive.

The two deceased crew members, identified as 63-year-old Marc Gann and 43-year-old Samuel “Adam” Russell, were part of a crew attempting to save a patient suffering from a medical emergency late Sunday afternoon.

Shelby County 911 received a call in reference to a hiker suffering a medical emergency related to breathing issues or chest pains while hiking.

“It was determined the best course of action to transport the patient was by LifeSafer,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Clay Hammac said during a press conference Sunday night. “Our Shelby County deputies assisted LifeSaver as we often do by securing a landing zone nearby the area, which ultimately resulted in this tragic crash.”

Hammac confirmed one of the crew members was pronounced deceased on the scene, while the other two and the original patient suffering from chest pains were all transported to the hospital where the second death was confirmed.

“Our deputies responded to the scene quickly, since they were already there, and did the best they could to render aid,” Hammac said. “The helicopter was on fire. They did attempt to extract the flight crew and we are very grateful for the help of our Chelsea fire department as well as the Cahaba Valley Fire Department who quickly responded to the scene to render as much aid as possible and to evacuate the patients to nearby hospitals. There were three crew members on board the air craft at the time of the crash. Tragically, I can say now, we can confirm the fatality of two.”

Paramedic Amanda Daniels was the lone survivor from the crew and said she was completely overwhelmed by the love and support from so man.

“To say I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and prayers for our LifeSaver family would be a complete understatement,” she said. “My hear is shattered into a million pieces. My body is bruised and sore, but will heal. My heart will not. I lost two very important people in my life. We all did.”

She described Gann as selfless, hard working and funny, while she said Russell was a dedicated father, son, husband and friend.

“If you’ve ever flown with him, you would know before the helicopter ever left the ground he bowed his head, folded his hands and prayed,” Daniels said of Russell. “Not every once in a while, every flight. Same as our last day together.”

Hammac said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating with assistance from the FAA, while Shelby County EMA is providing any additional resources needed for the investigation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very difficult time for our public safety profession, here specifically in Shelby County because we count ourselves to be a family of all first responders, fire, medical and law enforcement,” Hammac said. “Many of us in this profession know these individuals that were involved, so this affects us very deeply.”

Chelsea Mayor Tony Pickelsimer also spoke following the tragic event in the city, and talked about the heroic effort of the crew members aboard the LifeSaver helicopter.

“Whenever our first responders answer that call, they know there is a possibility of something very bad happening of an outcome none of us want,” Picklesimer said. “This flight crew on life saver, they’re heroes. Our hearts go out to the families of the two members of the flight crew who passed away, and a heartfelt thanks to my heroes at the Chelsea Fire Department and the deputies who responded. Please remember these families that are having to deal with this tragic event.”

Hub Harvey with the EMA said they hope to have more information first thing in the morning with the NTSB having additional personnel en route.

“We are a very tight-knit group of responders, EMS, fire, law, emergency management in this area. This is a tragic loss for this community,” Harvey said. “We ask that you will continue to keep these personnel, all of these people, especially the people who had to respond to this tragic incident, in your thoughts and prayers right now.”

Hammac asked everyone to be in prayer for the families of those involved as well as all first responders in the community, many of who knew those on board.

Gann was the pilot of the helicopter, which was known as LifeSaver 4 based out of Sylacauga. A U.S. Army veteran who served 20 years as a helicopter pilot in addition to time as an Army Ranger, Gann had been working with LifeSaver since 2007.

Russell was the registered nurse aboard the helicopter when it crashed. Russell was a native of Goodwater and served as a paramedic after previously spending time as a fire fighter with the Sylacauga Fire Department.

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