Air Ambulance Crashes

Medical Helicopter Crash

The tragedy of any medical helicopter crash is that the pilot and healthcare workers are all there for one reason: to safely transport patients to a hospital or other medical facility. But some are wondering how “safe” helicopter medevac really is. As of early July 2008, there were six medical helicopter crashes for the year, and three other medical aircraft accidents, all of which claimed the lives of 16 people. Thirteen of those deaths happened in May and June, making it one of the deadliest two-month periods in industry history.


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One crash involved two medevac helicopters near a Flagstaff, AZ hospital. Both were traveling from different directions and collided about a half-mile from the hospital on approach to the landing pad. In all, seven people died and two were seriously injured.

This accident is not unusual – in fact it is part of a disturbing trend. According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stats, there were 14 air ambulance crashes in 2007, resulting in 24 deaths. In 2006, there were 13 accidents and 10 deaths.

Medical Helicopter Crash Rate Too High, Some Say

After a rash of similar medical helicopter crashes in 2004 and 2005, the NTSB opened an investigation and compiled a number of recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But, says NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker, the FAA may not be moving fast enough to implement these changes – changes that could save lives.

“The latest spate of accidents has given the board concern that the FAA may not be moving as quickly as necessary,” he told the New York Times.

In reality, the problem has been growing since the 1990s. In the six years from 2002 to 2008, the number of medical helicopters doubled to about 800 operating across the US. Some are operated by the hospitals themselves, but others are operated by private companies looking to cash in on the growing boom.

And booming it is, for a number of reasons. Emergency rooms in rural areas are closing down, forcing medevacs by ground and air to other hospitals. But many medical helicopters are transferring non-emergency patients from one facility to another – in essence, they are not EMS helicopters so much as medical taxis.

“The vast majority of patients could have done well in a ground ambulance,” Dr. Bryan Bledsoe, professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and former flight paramedic told the New York Times. “There is pressure to fly because most companies are owned by publicly-owned entities.”

Who’s Overseeing the Helicopter Medevac Industry?

Regulation is another part of the problem. Although all helicopter companies must follow FAA rules, inspections are rare due to manpower shortages. This, coupled with rising fuel costs and other financial pressures means that safety equipment like improved accident-avoidance systems and in some cases even basic maintenance procedures are left to slide.

Still, pilot error is the number one cause of medical helicopter crashes. As in the Flagstaff accident above, there is no air traffic control around a hospital, so pilots must be on the lookout themselves for other aircraft. But the simple fact is, until there is greater regulation of the industry, medevac helicopter accidents will likely continue to rise.

Have You Been In a Helicopter Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a medical helicopter crash, you have the right to seek compensation for your hospital bills, lost work, and pain and suffering. Call David P. Willis today for a free consultation and learn your rights. No matter what the cause of the accident, the air ambulance company, hospitals, and perhaps other parties all have the responsibility of ensuring you arrive safely.

Do not wait – vital evidence could disappear and your rights could be severely compromised if you do not act quickly. Call us right now for free advice and then decide if seeking compensation is the right course of action for you.

Jacksonville, Florida Medical Transport Helicopter Crash

Bell 206 Helicopter used in Organ Transplant procurement Crash Kills Doctor and 2 others on board

On December 26, 2011 a Bell 206 helicopter flying from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, to Shands, Florida crashed because of poor visibility and weather conditions, killing all on board.

The Bell 206 medical helicopter was on route to pick up a heart transplant at a Gainesville Hospital when the crashed occurred.  The crash killed Dr. Luis Bonilla, a heart surgeon, David Hines, an organ procurement technician, and Pilot E. Hoke Smith, of St. Augustine based SK Logistics Company.  The medical transport helicopter company operates as SK Jets and its fleet operates from the St. Augustine airport.

Due to weather conditions, the pilot of the Bell 206 helicopter became spatially disoriented causing him to strike a 50 foot pine tree and several other trees as it crashed in a wooded area about 12 miles northeast of the Palatka Municipal Airport.

Due to the crash, the heart was not able to be transported to Jacksonville and finding a new match for the heart would have taken longer than the four hour window between the harvest and the transplant operation.

The Pilot E. Hoke Smith was a decorated veteran of combat missions in Vietnam.  Mr. Smith routinely flew medical transport flights, primarily during holidays when he gave his employees time off from his company SK Logistics.

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Mother of Dead Teen Sues FAA Over Helicopter Crash

Medevac Crash Survivor Sues Federal Government For $50M

GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) — She was the sole survivor and now she wants tens of millions of dollars.  Jordan Wells filed a federal lawsuit against the FAA and air traffic controller following a 2008 Medevac helicopter crash that killed four and left Wells alone on the ground and in pain.

 Wells and her friend Ashley Younger were on their way home from a carnival on a rain-slicked road when they crashed after Wells lost control of the car.  They were airlifted to the hospital but never made it.

 The helicopter crashed near Andrews Air Force Base, killing Younger, the pilot, a flight paramedic and an emergency medical technician.  Wells lay there, alone.

 “I remember looking up at the sky, at the stars and I just prayed to God,” she said.  “I said, ‘God, please send someone to save me.’”

In the weeks that followed, Wells underwent 20 surgeries and the crash investigation underwent intense scrutiny.

Among the findings: a multitude of causes, including outdated weather information and a pilot not proficient in instrument-landing approaches.  For that reason, Wells’ attorneys are now asking for $50 million in damages.

There was no response from the attorneys about the lawsuit. 

The state has instituted new rules for medical evaluations, including adding a second pilot and paramedic on every flight and replacing outdated helicopters.


Call a Helicopter Crash Lawyer to Discuss Your Legal Options

If you or a loved one have been severely injured or killed in an accident or crash involving an Air Ambulance, , you and your family may be entitled to financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and your pain and suffering. The Willis Law Firm has the experience and expertise you need to get the money and justice that you deserve and are entitled to. To discuss your case with a Helicopter Crash Attorney at our law firm and to learn more about how we may be able to fight for you, please fill out the free Case Evaluation Form to the right or call The Willis Law Firm today at 1-877-788-7655 for immediate assistance. We are here to help, and you are not alone.

Lone survivor of 2008 Medevac helicopter crash files $50 million lawsuit

The sole survivor of a 2008 Maryland State Police helicopter crash in District Heights has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration, alleging negligence on the part of air traffic controllers.

Jordan Wells, 20, of Waldorf filed the suit Dec. 7 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt.

The suit states that before the Sept. 27, 2008, crash, the FAA traffic controllers who were based at Joint Base Andrews gave Maryland State Police pilot Stephen J. Bunker dated information on weather conditions, failed to guide him in the Trooper 2 helicopter to a safe landing as navigation equipment began to falter and did not alert paramedics to the scene of the crash.

Wells, who was 18 at the time, survived the crash into a wooded area of Walker Mill Regional Park in District Heights but lost her right leg as a result.

Bunker, 59, of Waldorf; Trooper 1st Class Mickey C. Lippy, 34, of Westminster, a state police flight paramedic; Tonya Mallard, 39, of Waldorf, an EMT for the Waldorf Volunteer Rescue Squad; and Ashley J. Younger, 17, of Waldorf, died in the crash.

Wells’ attorney said that she is “scarred from head to toe” and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of survivor guilt. She has had to learn how to walk again and drives a modified vehicle, he said.

Wells’ lawsuit is the third related to the crash. Kenneth Mallard, husband of Tonya Mallard, filed a $7 million suit against the FAA on July 21 in federal court that also claims the FAA did not ensure Trooper 2′s safe landing. Mickey Lippy’s widow, Christina P. Lippy of Westminster, sued the FAA in March in federal court for $15 million on behalf of her husband.

Prior to the crash, Trooper 2 picked up Younger and Wells, who were involved in a vehicle crash in Waldorf. The helicopter was originally going to fly to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, but foggy weather conditions forced them to reroute to Joint Base Andrews, where an ambulance waited to transport them to Prince George’s Hospital Center.

Bunker was unable to pick up a glideslope, a navigation system to help guide an aircraft to the runway, during flight. While in contact with the air traffic controller at Andrews’ tower, the controller replied, “It’s [the glideslope] showing green on the panel, but you’re the only aircraft we’ve had in a long time, so I don’t really know if it’s working or not,” court documents state.

An Andrews FAA air traffic controller told Bunker just before midnight that she could not provide him with “airport surveillance radar approach,” radar that gives an aircraft vertical and lateral guidance to safely reach the runway, court documents state. No additional attempts were made with Trooper 2 shortly before it crashed, court documents state. Whether the air traffic controller who discussed the glideslope with Bunker is the same one who could not provide the radar service is not stated in court documents.

The suit claims that air traffic controllers never called to say the last-known coordinates of the helicopter, and that Wells’ leg could have been saved if she had not been in the woods for two hours with the helicopter laying across her legs as paramedics struggled to find the aircraft’s location.

“The infection set in because she was sitting in the mud with an open wound,” said her attorney, who added that to date Wells has had 30 surgeries related to injuries she suffered in the crash.

“She may have to lose the other leg as well because of the complications she’s been dealing with.”

FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said she could not comment on any of the pending litigation.

Find Out More About Your Case

If you or a loved one has been injured during an EMS helicopter flight, contact David P. Willis to find out your legal options. We will give you a free and comprehensive case review, let you know what your rights are, and if necessary, help you fight to get the compensation you deserve. Call us Toll-Free right now to start your free assessment, or email us for more information.

Another Air Evac Lifeteam Helicopter Crash Kills Three in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Three medical evacuation helicopter crew members were killed early Tuesday when their helicopter crashed while enroute to a traffic crash to evacuate a victim in central Arkansas . A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman stated that the Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter crashed at approximately 4:00 a.m. near the community of Scotland in Van Buren County, Arkansas.  Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were on site at the crash site conducting the investigation. Apparently there were no distress calls from the helicopter. Scotland is about 80 miles north of Little Rock in central Arkansas.

Arkansas Air Evac Lifeteam Helicopter Crash Site

Air Evac Lifeteam Helicopter Crash Site in Arkansas

Pilot Kenneth Robertson, flight nurse Kenneth Meyer, Jr., and flight paramedic Gayla Gregory all were killed, according to an Air Evac spokesman. Van Buren County Coroner Dorothy Branscum said the victims were killed on impact. “I would say they might’ve seen it coming, but that was it. The helicopter was just melted and it was just in pieces,” according to Branscum.

Investigators said autopsies, which were to be performed by the state medical examiner’s office, would help determine whether a medical emergency among the crew could have caused the accident. It also was too early to say whether “a mechanical anomaly” caused the helicopter to break up in the air, or if the aircraft struck trees that caused parts to fall off as it went down, according to a National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tuesday evening.

“They were flying under VFR (visual flight rules),” the FAA spokesman stated. “It also doesn’t appear they were talking to any air traffic controllers at the time.” No patients were aboard the helicopter. The Bell 206 helicopter, built in 1978, was registered to Air Evac EMS Inc. which is based in West Plains, Missouri.

According to the Walnut Grove Fire Department, the department alarm went off just before 4 a.m. with firefighters on the scene about eight minutes later. They found burning wreckage and immediately began work to see if there were any survivors. The wreckage was scattered around the area with the main part of the helicopter in the woods next to a clearing near the Walnut Grove Church.

The crew was based in Vilonia, Arkansas. Air Evac operates Med Evac helicopter services in 13 states and has experienced several fatal helicopter crashes in recent years.  In March of 2010, three medi-vac helicopter crew members were killed in a helicopter crash in Tennessee. In 2008, an Air Evac helicopter crashed in an Indiana cornfield killing three people. In 2007, another three-member crew was killed when an Air Evac helicopter crashed in Colbert County, Alabama.

“This is a tragic day for us here at Air Evac Lifeteam,” the spokesman said. “These were members of our family and we are devastated at this loss. Our focus at this time is on providing support for the family and friends of these helicopter crew members.”