Medical Helicopters Return to Oklahoma Hospital After Fatal Crash

July 1, 2013

Medical helicopter flights from a southeastern Oklahoma hospital have resumed after this month’s deadly crash.

Officials with Wichita, Kan.-based EagleMed said a Eurocopter AS350 arrived at the McAlester Regional Health Center earlier this week to replace an identical helicopter that crashed June 11 after taking off from the Choctaw Nation Heath Care Center in Talihina, killing a patient and injuring three others on board.

In a statement to The Oklahoman, EagleMed President Larry Bugg said the company was “devastated” by the crash.

“At that same time, we know the community and southeastern Oklahoma count on our critical care air medical flights to save lives, so we are thankful to again have helicopter service based at McAlester hospital,” Bugg said.

Jim Gregory, a consultant for EagleMed, said the company continued to use a Beechcraft King Air airplane to fly medical flights from the McAlester hospital and EagleMed helicopters nearby hospitals served the area, Gregory said.

The June 11 crash occurred as the helicopter was getting ready to transport Michael David Wilson of Bethel to a Tulsa hospital.

A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report said the helicopter pilot told investigators that he had landed earlier on an asphalt road next to the health center’s only helipad because another helicopter was already there.

The pilot said that shortly after takeoff from the road, the left side of the rotor blade disk struck a 41-foot-tall metal light pole, causing him to lose control and crash. A final NTSB report on the crash is not expected for several months.

Wilson was pronounced dead at the scene, a flight nurse was seriously injured. The pilot and a flight paramedic were treated and released for minor injuries.

It was the third deadly crash of an EagleMed helicopter in Oklahoma since 2010.

The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems has since begun a review of EagleMed’s accreditation. Eileen Frazer, executive director of the commission said further action could be taken against the company pending the results of investigations.

The June 11 crash occurred less than four months after an EagleMed helicopter crash-landed outside an Oklahoma City nursing home in February, killing two people onboard. Another EagleMed helicopter crashed into a field near Kingfisher in July 2010, killing three people.

Frazer said the company, based in Wichita, Kan., had just received its three-year accreditation when the February crash occurred.

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