WO1 Roger A. Greenan was a VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 07/25/2009 at the age of 67.3 from Heart attack
Hudson, WI
Flight Class 64-2W
Date of Birth 04/17/1942
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with 119 AVN in 64-65
Call sign in Vietnam ALLIGATOR
This information was provided by Obituary

More detail on this person: Roger Greenan, 67, was KSTP-TV helicopter pilot famed for heroic rescue Vietnam vet later became known for heroic rescue in KSTP helicopter

By Tad Vezner

Updated: 07/29/2009 11:32:22 PM CDT

KSTP-TV helicopter pilot Roger Greenan is pictured at St. Paul Downtown Airport in 1996. Greenan, of Hudson, Wis., died of a heart attack Saturday. He was 67. (Pioneer Press file photo)After being shot down twice and crashing a third time as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Roger Greenan came to Minnesota for the quiet life.

He didn't get it. In 1979, he was shot down again, when the helicopter he flew for KSTP-TV was struck by a bullet and forced to land during an incident at the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Then, in the summer of 1991, he became famous: A boat that drifted over St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis left several people stranded on the Mississippi River, clinging to rocks, and Greenan got a call.

A KSTP editor reached him at St. Paul Downtown Airport, and within eight minutes, Greenan had equipped his helicopter with a harness and was at the scene _ refusing to bring a videographer with him to avoid confusion. Within 28 minutes, he had rescued four people _ including two members of the Hennepin County sheriff's office and an Alcoholics Anonymous member who'd been celebrating her sobriety with an ill-fated cruise.

A Pioneer Press article stated "rescuers and bystanders described him (Greenan) as a deus ex machina, the Latin phrase that means 'God from the machine,' a salvation appearing in the sky seemingly out of nowhere."

Minneapolis Deputy Fire Chief David Norling noted at the time that "the landing gear of that helicopter had to be only a couple of feet from the (last) victim in order to successfully complete that rescue. He had to be under complete control to perform the way he did. It was just amazing."

The Discovery Channel aired a special on the incident, highlighting Greenan, and the History Channel recently interviewed Greenan for an upcoming broadcast.

Greenan, who died Saturday at age 67 of a heart attack at his home in Hudson, Wis., took a while to seek the quiet life in Minnesota.

After Vietnam, where he logged 750 combat hours flying an Army gunship, he worked as a helicopter pilot for an oil exploration firm in Indonesia, helped set up an offshore exploration oil well in New Zealand and worked for several years as a bush pilot and instructor in Alaska.

"He lived in eight countries on five continents," said his wife, Irene. The couple lived for several years in Arizona, and Greenan commuted to Minnesota to handle his business, EAC Helicopters (later named North American Surveillance Systems) in South St. Paul. Originally a helicopter maintenance shop, the business expanded to specialize in the installation of electronic surveillance systems on helicopters throughout the world. Greenan also performed such tasks as mapping deer herds, surveying pipelines, and finding and removing land mines.

As part of his contract business, Greenan began flying for KSTP-TV in 1980 but stopped in the late 1990s after suffering a heart attack.

"We always felt safe with him. ... He's someone that everyone in the family knows," said Rob Hubbard, KSTP general manager. "He did a lot of great work here, and he pioneered work with helicopters and (newsgathering)."

During his spare time, the burly, bass-voiced Greenan piloted an aerial camera crew for the Prince movie "Purple Rain" and gave free charity rides to special-needs children associated with the Thursday's Child and Make-A-Wish foundations.

Born and raised in Old Town, Maine, Greenan learned to fly in the Army during the Vietnam War. His uncle, brother and cousin are also pilots, and his father made the attempt but crashed a plane during cadet training for World War II.

"His father and uncle were inspirations. There's quite a few of us that made flying a career," said brother Derek Antony Greenan, an airline pilot.

Roger Greenan's son, Scott Greenan, 33, also a pilot, died in 2001 in a helicopter crash. The cause was never determined. Greenan set up a scholarship fund in his son's name at the University of North Dakota's aviation school in Grand Forks.

In addition to his wife and brother Derek Antony, Greenan is survived by a daughter, Allison Marr; brothers Tim and Sean Greenan; and three grandchildren.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, 485 Jacobs Lane, in Hudson.

This information was last updated 05/18/2016

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