Thursday, October 16, 2008

MedEvac Crash Trend Continues Following Illinois Incident

Illinois Medical Chopper Crash brings 2008 total to 12

AURORA, Ill. (October 16, 2008) ― A medical helicopter responding to Chicago’s Children's Memorial Hospital crashed into a forest preserve in Aurora, IL overnight, killing the three crewmembers on board and their patient, a 14-month-old girl.According to CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago, the medevac helicopter clipped a guy wire that was supporting a radio tower nearby before crashing

The helicopter was headed for Children's Hospital from the western suburbs when it went down around midnight. Aurora firefighters arrived to find the helicopter in the Night Heron Marsh Forest Preserve, fully engulfed in flames. Rescue crews immediately attempted a rescue operation but onbly found the four deceased victims, including three crew members and the child.

The helicopter was owned and operated by Air Angels Inc., an emergency medical transport service based in suburban Chicago near Bolingbrook, IL.

The Illinois crash comes among a spate of devastating Air Medevac incidents that have plagued the emergency services during the past year. Just last week, a Maryland State Police “Dauphine” helicopter crashed near its barracks at Andrews Air Force Base, killing the pilot, a police medic, a volunteer EMT and the crew’s patient, a 17 year old accident victim.

In July, the fatal collision of two medical helicopters in Flagstaff, AZ was the ninth accident involving emergency medical aircraft to date. At that time, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board called the series of crashes a "disturbing trend."

In Aurora, Assistant Fire Chief John Lehman reported that, "The impact was tremendous…and so there really is no aircraft left."

In their investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board is trying to determine why the chopper ended up so low, under 750 feet. They have not concluded whether there was a mechanical problem or an emergency on board. A safety investigator was expected to debrief reporters later Thursday.

The crash site is in the residential area, across the street from a radio station with a tower the height of a 70-story building. A snapped wire could be seen hanging from the 734-foot tower that stands across a busy road from the crash site.

According to WBBM News, NTSB spokesman John Brannen said the helicopter was flying about 50 feet below the top of the tower when the wire was clipped. He said NTSB was investigating whether lights on the tower were on at the time or could have been knocked out during the incident.

The helicopter, a a single engine Bell 222 Helicopter, had been in service for about 8 years.

On Aug. 4, 2007, an Air Angels rescue helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in unincorporated Sugar Grove. The chopper was on fire, but the crew was able to walk away from the scene.


Rescources: CBS News