Three crewmembers killed in medical helicopter crash
A medical helicopter crashed in the parking lot of an elementary school in eastern Kentucky, killing all three crewmembers aboard. Witnesses described heavy fog at the time, though forecasters said there was no severe weather. The accident happened in Clay County around 11 p.m. on June 6. “We are devastated at the loss of these crew members who we consider family,” company officials said. “We have no details regarding the cause of the accident but will be working with the NTSB in coming days as they conduct their investigation.” (See commentary on medical aviation, p. 20) There was no patient on board. The company identified the crewmembers as pilot Eddie Sizemore, flight paramedic Herman “Lee” Dobbs and flight nurse Jesse Jones. They were on their way back to base in Manchester after transporting a patient to a hospital in London, Ky. Company spokeswoman Julie Heavrin said the Bell 206 LongRanger had been “completely refurbished with wiring, components” in May 2012 making it “more powerful and capable of carrying higher gross weight.” Air Evac Lifeteam operates 114 bases in 15 states. The last crash involving one of its helicopters was in Arkansas in 2010. All three crew members were killed. Heavrin said Air Evac Lifeteam has had two other fatal crashes in the past six years. One in Indiana in 2008 killed all three crew members, as did the other in Alabama in 2007. Judy Owens, former head of the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Heath in Hazard, said the mountainous terrain of central Appalachia makes helicopter transport a must if patients are to arrive at major hospitals within the so-called “golden hour” that can determine whether they live or die. Owens said the flight crews are considered heroes in central Appalachia.