Often in this blog we chronicle recent highway vehicle accidents that end in death or serious personal injury. In doing so, the hope is that awareness of the causes of these accidents can save lives. Often in those stories is an important footnote: “…the accident victim was taken by air ambulance to the hospital.” Air ambulance services save many lives and have made the difference in the outcome of many of the seriously injured. The pilots and paramedics do their jobs often as unsung heroes
Tragically, one of these air ambulances crashed last week near Mosby, Missouri, killing all four people on board. Killed were the flight nurse, flight paramedic, pilot and the patient in transport. As a pilot and aviation injury lawyer, I am always interested in the causes of these tragedies.
The National Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation, and the causes won’t be known for some time. The LifeNet helicopter crashed under “unknown circumstance,” so every aspect will be investigated. There is information that the pilot was planning a fuel stop at the Midwest National Air Center, but crashed about a mile away in Clay County, raising the question as to whether low fuel was a contributing cause. KCTV-5 reported that the LifeNet helicopter seldom took off with full fuel tanks.
The wreckage of the Eurocopter AS-350 B2 has been recovered and transported to a secure facility for the NTSB investigation.
Not all air ambulance services are equal from a safety standpoint, and the NTSB presented a program this past May called Current Issues with Air Medical Transportation: EMS Helicopter Safety to highlight the issues. Like most industries, there are those that provide first class service and safety and others that meet the bare minimum of regulatory compliance.
It was noted by the NTSB that EMS helicopter crews had the highest risk occupation in the world. Let’s hope that their investigation gets us one step closer to eliminating the causes of these tragedies in the future.