20 October 2008

4 Dead In Illinois

2008 has been a terrible year for Helicopter Ambulances. I think I read there have been 9 fatal accidents involving EMS helicopters this year. There have also been several serious accidents that have not resulted in fatalities.
The latest happened in Aurora, Illinois.
It was a Bell 222, an aircraft I consider to be the most beautiful rotorcraft flying. Some of you may recognize the "triple deuce" as the aircraft used in the TV series "Airwolf".

We still don't know the "whys".
What we do know is that it was nighttime, the aircraft was on its way to Children's Hospital of Chicago with Pilot, Nurse, Paramedic, and the patient, a 13 month old little girl on board. Over Aurora they ran into the support cable for a tall antenna and crashed, killing all aboard.

News reports and comments from EMS bloggers bring many questions to mind:

1. Why did this pilot not see this obstruction? There are unconfirmed reports the tower did not have the required lighting.

2. This tower was 700+ feet tall. Why was he cruising at an altitude low enough to strike this tower, even if it was unlit?

3. (At my age I hate to approach this question.) This pilot was 69 years of age. Was his physical condition a factor in this accident?

4. This baby was a seizure patient. Was it medically necessary to fly her?

A radar track for the aircraft shows no anomalies, so there are no indications of mechanical failure. More questions will no doubt be asked as the investigation of this accident unfolds. But as an industry insider I am sure of one thing...
We fly far too many patients that could, and should be transported by ground.
I sincerely hope this accident is the impetus for discussion as to how we can safely and more efficiently use EMS helicopters.

More details than you could ever want to know on the subject here.


jinksto said...

Sad thing. I used to fly out of Clow (C09) with these guys. I didn't know them but did have a few quick chats around the FBO with them and we exchanged greetings on unicom many times.

C09 is very heavy in flight training and these guys often went out of their way to avoid scaring students.

I also saw them on many occasions giving unscheduled "walk-around" tours of the helicopter to people who wandered over while they were fueling and they could always be counted on to find the nearest airport brat and show him around.

Just all around good folks with very professional attitudes.

Not that I thought you were implying anything else GB. Non-flyers sometimes see our questions about a flight gone wrong and think that we're Monday Morning Quarterbacking which is (almost) never the intent. There's a reason for every crash and we're always very interested in knowing what that was so that we can avoid it ourselves. It's especially tough when you know the folks involved and know that making silly decisions wasn't a standard mode of operations for them.

cj said...

It seems to me, a non-flyer, that you've raised interesting questions... I sure hope they come up with answers.

It's a sad, sad event.