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.”

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