Federal accident investigators have released a report saying that ice is to blame for a fatal medical helicopter crash in Oklahoma City three years ago.
The Oklahoman reports that the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that the EagleMed helicopter lost power because undetected ice got into the engine during the initial climb after takeoff from an Oklahoma City hospital Feb. 22, 2013.
The board says the aircraft had been parked outside and exposed to freezing temperatures before the accident, and that the pilot’s preflight inspection was “inadequate,” noting that surveillance video of the helipad showed that most of the helipad’s lights were off at the time of inspection.
It also said the helicopter’s air intake design had been modified to accommodate a different engine, leaving a gap where water or snow could pass through a screen and onto a blanking plate.
According to the safety board, “Shortly after takeoff, the ice detached from the blanking plate, slid into the air inlet and was subsequently ingested by the engine, resulting in an in-flight loss of engine power.”
Due to the accident, EagleMed LLC has painted the blanking plate on its helicopters matte black to enhance detection of moisture and modified its preflight inspection requirements.
The pilot and a nurse aboard the helicopter were killed, and a paramedic was severely injured.
Timothy A. Loranger, an attorney for the pilot Mark Montgomery’s widow and children, was critical about the reports comments.
“We believe that his ability to see accumulation of ice was diminished because of the design issue,” Loranger said.
Montgomery’s wife, EagleMed and an insurance company have sued the helicopter manufacturer, the engine manufacturer and the designer of the engine modification package. The lawsuit is now before the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.
Lawsuits on behalf of the nurse and the paramedic have been settled.