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.