North Memorial resumes air care operations after fatal crash

North Memorial Health resumed air care operations Friday, July 12, ending a voluntary cessation of operations after the June 28 helicopter crash in Brainerd.

“We are taking an incremental and measured approach to resuming operations one base at a time until all seven bases across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin are operational,” North Memorial Health officials said in a statement released Friday morning. “We expect all bases to be in service as of July 19. This phased approach is in the best interest of our team members, hospital partners and communities we serve.”

North Memorial Health Air Care has bases in Brainerd, Bemidji, Princeton, Redwood Falls and Lakeville. North Memorial owns two hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area, including North Memorial Level 1 Medical Center in Robbinsdale, and has ground ambulance stations in Brainerd, Brooklyn Center and other cities throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The June 28 crash at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport killed pilot Tim McDonald, of Bloomington, and flight nurse Deb Schott, of Lester Prairie. Flight paramedic Josh Duda was critically injured.

“North Memorial Health is so grateful for the support the community and our EMS partners from across the region have provided to the family, friends and colleagues of Deb Schott, Tim McDonald and Josh Duda,” Friday’s news release said.


According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Duda noted foggy conditions during the fatal flight, when the three-member crew was returning to Brainerd after delivering a patient to the North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.

Duda recalled seeing the runway surface and lights under a thin layer of fog as the helicopter was preparing to land. McDonald, who was using instrument flight rules, mentioned the foggy conditions and said they would need to go around. The helicopter then spun to the right and hit the ground, according to Duda’s comments in the report.

McDonald and Schott died at the scene, while Duda was transported to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and then North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale.

A benefit dinner and silent auction is planned for Duda, a Brainerd lakes area resident, 5-8 p.m. Aug. 15, at the Northland Arboretum. A benefit/donation account for the Duda family was established at Bremer Bank. Donations can be made in person at any Bremer Bank location or via mail at: Bremer Bank, Josh C. Duda / Road to Recovered Benefit Account, 7558 Design Road, Baxter, MN 56425. Checks can be made out to Josh Duda or Benefit Fund for Josh Duda.

A GoFundMe page for McDonald’s family is set up at .

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