AURORA, Ill. — A toddler being flown to a hospital died in a fiery helicopter crash with three crew members when the aircraft clipped a radio tower wire and went down in a suburban Chicago field, authorities said Thursday.
Federal authorities said they were investigating whether the tower's lights were on at the time of the fatal crash minutes before midnight Wednesday — the sixth involving medical helicopters in the United States this year.
About 1,000 people who live near the 734-foot tower were advised to leave their homes because of damage to the structure.
The Air Angels helicopter had been carrying 1-year-old Kirstin Blockinger to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Nearly a dozen members of the girl's family visited the site of the crash late Thursday afternoon, filing through tall grass to see the wreckage, one clutching a brown teddy bear and pink roses.
"We love Kirstin and celebrate her life, however short," said her grandfather, Steve Ogletree, who also offered condolences to the Air Angels crew and their family members.
Eva Blockinger said her great-granddaughter often was ill and suffered seizures. Kirstin's father is a National Guardsman who was training in Kansas to be deployed to Afghanistan.
Air Angels CEO Jim Adams said operations at the Bolingbrook-based emergency medical transport service were being suspended while the company worked with NTSB investigators.
Thursday's accident was the 11th crash this year, and the sixth fatal one, involving medical helicopters nationwide, according to NTSB data.
The NTSB plans to hold a public hearing on medical helicopter crashes next year to look into the recent increases in accident rates, said NTSB spokesman Terry Williams.