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EMS crash in Texas


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Prayers needed for all the families involved.

This excert is from the Houston Chronicle (www.chron.com):

 

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Four people died early Sunday after their medical helicopter crashed inside Sam Houston National Forest, officials said.

 

"The helicopter was totally disintegrated upon impact," said Department of Public Safety Trooper John Sampa. "It took down a couple of pine trees."

 

PHI Air Medical, the company that owns the private air ambulance, identified three dead crewmembers as pilot Charles Wayne Kirby, flight nurse Jana Bishop and flight paramedic Stephanie Waters. The air medical team was based at Coulter Field in Bryan, officials said.

 

The helicopter left Huntsville Memorial Hospital and was heading to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston when it crashed, officials said.

 

PHI told federal aviation officials that the Bell 407 helicopter went down about 2:45 a.m.

 

Sampa said it left a debris trail 1,000 feet long and 30 feet wide. There was no sign of fire or explosion. The helicopter crashed on private property within the forest. The closest road to the crash is Ball, with the crash site on the Gene Campbell Ranch about 1.25 miles east of the road in the middle of the woods.

 

"Two minutes after they took off they lost communications," Sampa said. "It had an impact and it skidded the rest of the way."

 

The Montgomery County Hospital communications center lost contact with the helicopter about 2:47 a.m., Sampa said. At 3 a.m., the pilot failed to report the craft's last position. Protocol dictates the pilot check in every 15 minutes.

 

A DPS helicopter crew spotted the wreck and highway patrol authorities found the bodies about 8:34 a.m. They were pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.

 

Harris County EMS official Don Stamps said locating the wreckage was difficult because the helicopter crashed into an inaccessible section of the heavily forested national park.

 

"It's a very, very remote area," said Stamps, whose agency often works closely with the private air ambulance company. "The rescue crew had a heck of a time getting in because of the remote access."

 

PHI said it tracked the downed helicopter through the onboard global position system device. It was about 5-10 miles from Huntsville Memorial Hospital.

 

"PHI Air Medical is devastated by the loss of the patient and our friends and colleagues," the company said in a statement. "We mourn with the patient's family for their loss and are with the families of our colleagues at this time."

 

An air safety investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived on scene at 4:15 p.m. Jennifer Kaiser will lead the investigation, but others from Washington, D.C., and Dallas are due to arrive Monday morning."

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Another link for more info: [url="http://www.khou.com"[/url] (Channel 11, Houston, TX)

 

Everyday on my way to and from work, I would look at the Coulter Airfield (Bryan, TX) for this helicopter; if it wasn't there I would hope for the best for all involved. The heli and crew(s) were known as Air Med 12 (for the 12th Man for the Texas A&M Aggies). Now, there is no helicopter and crew to look for . . . :(

 

Kathy Mooney

(logged in under Lee Mooney)

Edited by LeeRider78
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"There are no new reasons for accidents, just new pilots making the same mistakes"...quote from a safety seminar I attended last month.

 

Excerpt taken from a local newspaper " Life Flight helicopters fly more than 3,100 missions a year. In fact, one of them was dispatched in the early morning hours Sunday to transport *******, 58, from Huntsville Memorial to Memorial Hermann after he suffered an aneurism.

 

But just minutes before they were to land, the pilot radioed Houston saying they were aborting the mission due to weather.

 

That’s when the decision was made to bring in a PHI Medical helicopter from Bryan.

 

But if it was unsafe for Life Flight to fly, why did PHI Medical take to the air?"

 

Good question..."The pressure on EMS ships to get the patient in the air has to be mitigated before they get regulated out of business by well meaning, but not the sharpest of government agencies"......thats my quote.

 

Goldy

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It's sad and my prayers to the familes.

 

 

This may get a little off topic.

 

 

The EMS industry(pilots in general) are up in arms over many things.

 

First is chopper shopping.

 

Second is NVG's of which many pilots would like and it is a very useful tool.

 

Third is my personal favorite: ADM (Aviation Decision Making).

 

Lastly, company support of their pilots decisions.

 

Chopper Shopping:

 

Chopper shopping is something hospitals or EMS agencies do offten. In other words, if one company turns a flight down for what ever reason, often times they will call a different company. Many times they do not notify the second company that another company has already turned the flight down. Sometimes there are reasons to call a second company such as a maintenance issue but weather is not one of them in my opinion.

 

There was an accident not to long ago in which an EMS agency called a third company and that company in fact took the flight. The first two turned down due to weather. The third companies aircraft ended up crashing as a result of IIMC and or CFIT.

 

Many are calling for a single central dispatch, much like our 911 system. I tend to agree.

 

NVG's:

 

NVG's I think is also a must. Companies need to spend the money of safety equipment. Me personally if flying EMS, I would rather have an IFR twin with NVG's and a good IFR currency program. Either that or I would be spending some extra time back at base turning flights down.

 

ADM:

 

All these goodies however can not take place of ADM! Aviation Decision Making is very important. NVG's will do nothing for you if you were to end up in the soup. A IFR aircraft won't do much if you don't use it. Offten, the pilot continues to use what little is left of their VMC conditions rather than transition to the instruments and get an IFR clearance before it is truly to late. Accepting the fact that you've gone IIMC or about to seems to be where the hang up is.

 

Company Support:

 

Once the decision is made by the pilot there needs to be support behind that. We can't have crews or other pilots and managers second guessing that. Maybe the pilot could have done the flight and have it turn out just fine, who knows. Each pilot has their own comfort level and experience. Once that pilot has made that decision it should be enough to show that they are not comfortable with the flight.

 

This is just my $.02.

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I have no quarrel with shopping, as long as the previous turndown is disclosed. I've flown flights that other operators had declined for weather, with no problems. Sometimes the weather can be localized, and there may be an isolated thunderstorm over one base, and everything else is clear. As long as I know someone else has declined the flight, I'm willing to consider it, and I may or may not take it, depending on what I see. I may very well turn it down also, but I may also take it. That's my decision, and my responsibility. This is also where the hero mentality becomes a killer. If the pilot wants to save lives, it can be dangerous. If it's just a job, there is less self-imposed pressure to fly. IME, companies aren't pushing pilots to fly in bad weather, they're pushing themselves.

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I was driving through Huntsville (coming from the Houston area) about 1 hr before Air Med 12 departed the Huntsville hospital. Weather was not an issue, unless it was extremely low clouds. The night was dark and there was no moon, so I couldn't tell how low the clouds were. There were no storms or wind. In fact, it was very warm and humid. I am interested in finding out what happened.

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This is also where the hero mentality becomes a killer. If the pilot wants to save lives, it can be dangerous. If it's just a job, there is less self-imposed pressure to fly. IME, companies aren't pushing pilots to fly in bad weather, they're pushing themselves.

 

Primum non nocere...first, do no harm...is the prime directive of EMS. Sometimes the best thing a rescuer (EMT, firefighter, or EMS pilot) can do is nothing.

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Monday I had a long time customer come in with his broken equipment for our dealer to fix. Before he left he asked me if I was the mechanic who flew heli's, course I said yes. He then told me to be very very careful flying them that his wifes nephew was just killed in Huntsville flying EMS.

 

He proceeded to tell me that the pilot had been flying in South Africa and had been flying heli's about 40 years. The customer is in his 80's, so don't know how much of his story is true. Course I told him heli flight is pretty safe and that many have had wrecks and even killed crossing our 5 lane loop out front of the dealer.. Crossing from Wal Mart to Sonic....

 

Will be interesting to know what really happened to that flight.

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I know that we are skewing off topic here. I meant to re-direct my comments over to the EMS forum last night, but didnt...

 

What happened in Texas is a real tragedy, people died. So I do not mean any of my comments to be "mean". In fact, EMS pilots are the cream of the crop with many of them having 1000's of hours without incident. I have a brother who is a flight paramedic for the LAFD who has flown 1000's of missions for over 30 years without incident.

 

That being said, my real concern is for the EMS helicopter industry as a whole. The FAA will not tolerate these higher levels of accidents without trying to address it thru legislation.

 

This is the same FAA that requires desert tourists to wear a life jacket for 2 hours because their helicopter tour will spend 30 seconds flying over the Colorado River while on approach to a popular picinc area in the Grand Canyon. I'm sure they had good intentions at the time...I just cant figure out what the heck they were thinking when reading the NTSB recommendations....

 

So here I will go really off topic- so Admin can feel free to move these threads to the EMS sections..

 

If you own an EMS company, what is going to happen when the FAA requires only twin engine helicopters be used for EMS ? (its safer)

 

What if they require 1000 foot safety zones from your LZ to the public? So now, the troopers will spend half an hour clearing out cars so that you can "safely" land? (it's safer)

 

What if they no longer allow EMS flight at night? After all, many of the recent fatals occur after the sun goes down. (its safer)

 

What if they change the SVFR rules for helicopters so that you need one mile vis to fly ? (its safer)

 

What if they require 2000 hour pilots with 1000 hours in type to fly EMS missions? (its safer)

 

I could go on....but you get it by now. EMS needs to change the way they do business before the FAA changes it for them. If you dont believe me, just read 136 of the FAR's.

 

Goldy

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There are a lot of things that can be done to make EMS flying safer for sure. However, there has to be a balance. Goldy, I agree and disagree to a degree. :D

 

Such as no night EMS flights? They can be done safely and have been many many times.

 

It comes down to some flights just should not be taken due to weather(ADM) and also NVG's to aid and reduce pilot workload. I will admit though that a stat came out saying about 71% of EMS accidents happen at night. So that should be the focus.

 

A quick look at the NTSB site shows that lately the most comon cause has been weather, CFIT IIMC at night. A few mechanical problems and several LTE incidents have happened in the last few years.

 

Something needs to be done, more regulation reguarding night weather minimums, pilot ADM training, NVG's, and IFR currency. I am not a huge fan about creating more regulation but EMS is a whole different animal compared to other types of Part 135 flying. As a result, I think it needs it's own section in the FAR's.

 

When it comes to it, the NTSB already made tons of recommendations to the FAA over 2 years ago. However, it's all about the bean counters and $$$$$$. Some companies just don't want to spend 6 million dollars on an EC135, $10,000 for one NVG goggle and $20,000+ to update the aircraft to handle NVG's.

Edited by JDHelicopterPilot
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There are a lot of things that can be done to make EMS flying safer for sure. However, there has to be a balance. Goldy, I agree and disagree to a degree. :D

 

Such as no night EMS flights? They can be done safely and have been many many times.

 

JD- I was just writing that from the perspective of some FAA guy making a case to increase safety in the EMS field. I write a lot of my posts from that 3rd person viewpoint! I personally think night flights CAN be done safely in many areas, and the use of NVG can take it to another level...( personally, I LOVE flying at night....but in the metro areas)

 

However, all eyes are turning to EMS, and this is what gets the misinformed into a law changing frenzy... Here is the latest from ABC News:

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/OnCall/story?...7096&page=1

 

Goldy

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Typical news "feeding frenzy" . . . NEGATIVE and always trying to find fault and point fingers. :angry:

 

There are a few individuals in Bryan, TX that think that Air Med 12 flew to EVERY accident EVERY time (instead of using the ambulances) and that Air Med 12 or any other life flight service in Bryan is not needed. Our area is mainly rural. Without Air Med 12, the nearest life flight service is an hour away (faster than that by helicopter :) ). Air Med 12 was able to save a little boy from Madisonville (east of Bryan) earlier that day (drowning victim) . . . that particular case depended on the speed of special medical help (in Temple). The time for Life Flight from Temple to reach Madisonville might have cost the little boy dearly.

 

The majority of people really don't realize that there are certain injuries and circumstances the REQUIRE life flight [transport by ambulance is "a too rough ride" (remember, rural area) or "take too long"]. I really do hope that PHI will return service to our area.

 

Kathy

(logged in under Lee Mooney)

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PHI doesn't like to admit it, but there are EMS helicopters much closer to Madisonville than Temple, and almost as close as Bryan. The Bryan TV and newspaper stories have lots of misinformation, including one company no longer in business, and many of the locations are wrong. PHI knows exactly where all the helicopters are, and if they provided the information, then I have to wonder why it is so wrong. It's possible, of course, that the media did it on its own, and if so it's no wonder it's so outdated and incorrect.

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Kathy,

 

I am sorry if it looked as though we were pointing fingers. That was not intended at all. In fact what we are doing is just tossing ideas in which things could be made safer for all of us in the industry and in this case EMS flying. We just want to do better as pilots and grow as an industry.

 

I have lost 3 friends in two seperate accidents. Each time I have tried to learn something from that and I have.

 

I agree with you that EMS helicopters are a big need in many areas. My mom was transported by helicopter some years back after several heart attacks. She was transported to a specialty hospital which is very common these day. She as a result made a full recovery. I admire all the great things that Airmed 12 has done. I made a tribute to EMS crews and you can see it here at

 

JD

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To Gomer: It is comforting to know that EMS services are closer than I thought. The areas (1) north of Madisonville on Insterstate 45, (2) east of Franklin, TX (Hwy 79), and (3) north of Calvert, TX (Hwy 6) are deadly. And these are rural areas. Several times a month, Air Med 12 flew over our house headed toward Interstate 45. And I have seen a time when there was a extremely bad accident north of Calvert where both Temple helicopters and Air Med 12, along with various ambulances, were required.

 

I'm just really irritated at the media. The media smells Death and starts to circle like a flock of buzzards. The media has not researched EMS heli services very well at all as I haven't been able to find anything in our local "Daily Disappointment" (as the locals call it) and the Houston Chronicle or TV station KHOU (whose heli is hangared at the school where my son attends) stating locations of EMS helicopters other than Houston (Richmond area = SW Houston), Temple and Waco. In fact, one media source (I can't remember which one) stated that PHI was one of the few EMS helicopters to respond to accidents . . . I know that is "garbage" as I have personally seen Life Flight (from Houston) respond to several accidents.

 

Why did the media state that Life Flight flew to within 10 min of Huntsville and returned to Houston "due to weather"? The public didn't really need to know that . . . that is for the NTSB to know. Whether weather played a part . . . who knows? Now, there are people in our area on the "band wagon" questioning if EMS heli services are really necessary in our area. These people were basically unaware of EMS heli services (until now) and don't really know just how many times EMS heli services are called out (during the day when everyone is at work or during the night when everyone is asleep).

 

To JD: I know you're not point fingers and I truly didn't mean to come across that way. You and Goldy are correct in that the EMS Service industry should govern itself a little more before the FAA steps in . . . what a mud puddle that would be!

 

Thanks for listening to my rant,

Kathy

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As far as the FAA mandating changes for EMS, all I can say is that we (tour operators) didn't listen to the FAA for several years and now like Goldy said, you have to wear life jackets (non-float equipped helicopter) when flying over water no matter how long the duration, or how high you are. There are tons of other new regs also. My point is, that with all of the publicity of the crashes in recent weeks, it's coming.

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The media almost never get it right, and these days only seem to be concerned with ratings, not getting it right. I see very few news stories where aviation is involved that are accurate.

 

As for helicopter bases north of Madisonville, I know that PHI has one at Corsicana and Air Evac has one south of Fairfield, and these often cover the area near Franklin and down I-45. The local EMS personnel may not know of them, or prefer not to call them, but they're there.

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Gomer,

Thanks for the info. My hubby and oldest son drive the roads in that area frequently (oil field related work which means "location = BFE").

 

As you can tell, I'm not a real fan of "sensational reporting". I equate that type of reporting to "gossip" . . . and we all know how that gets around.

 

Question #1: You said "The local EMS personnel may not know of them, or prefer not to call them, but they're there." Does this happen frequently? Why? Is it based on contracts between EMS personnel and EMS heli companies? I'm just curious how this works . . . I'm not trying to stir the pot.

 

Question #2: How long does it normally take NTSB to file its report?

 

Thanks,

Kathy

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The NTSB usually takes 6 months or so, depending on the accident. Don't look for it soon.

 

There are usually no contracts between EMS agencies and helicopter companies, just contacts. It depends on the county, and the agencies. In some places, the dispatcher makes the call, in others the ambulance personnel tell them who to call, and it's mostly based on the 'good ole boy network', they usually call whomever they know and are used to. It's supposed to work for the patient, meaning whatever aircraft is closest is called, but in reality politics prevail. Some county supervisors decide that one or another company won't be called no matter what, based mostly on political considerations. I don't know how it works in Madison county.

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There will be a prelim NTSB report posted fairly soon. It just gives details of the accident. Not really the cause. That will take as GOMER said well over 6 months.

 

I too am disapointed with the media. They will offten leave details out in effort to make the story more dramatic. They will also slightly inflate the story as well. It's just something we have to know that is done and not read or believe everything we read or hear.

 

This is why I perfer to wait until the final report from the NTSB is out.

 

I think we both were just upset and needed to vent a little.

 

JD

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Prelim NTSB report as reported through a link on KBTX.COM (our local TV station).

 

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NTSB Identification: DEN08FA101

Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter

Accident occurred Sunday, June 08, 2008 in Hunstville, TX

Aircraft: Bell 407, registration: N416PH

Injuries: 4 Fatal.

 

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

 

On June 8, 2008, at 0248 central daylight time, a Bell 407 helicopter, N416PH, owned by PHI, Inc., and operated as "Med 12" was destroyed when it impacted a heavily forested area in the Sam Houston National Forest, near Huntsville, Texas. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The air ambulance flight was being operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on a company Visual Flight Rules flight plan. The pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic, and one passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed the Huntsville Memorial Hospital at 0246, after picking up a patient, and was en route to Herman Memorial Helipad, Houston, Texas.

 

The accident helicopter was equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) flight tracking system referred to as "Outerlink". According to data from the Outerlink system, the helicopter powered up for flight at 0244:11 and departed the hospital at 0246:56. The last coordinates recorded were at 0247. The helicopter was at an altitude of 1,016 feet mean sea level and traveling at a groundspeed of 106 knots. The calculated direction of flight was 170 degrees. The flight was scheduled to report in at 0300. No transmissions were received.

 

The wreckage was located by aerial search and rescue teams at 0830, about 2.5 miles southwest of the last known coordinates, with the aid of the 406 emergency locator transmitter (ELT). Debris was scattered approximately 630 feet from the initial impact point to the farthest point of the main wreckage. The debris path included the aft portion of the tail boom (including the vertical fin, tail rotor, and portions of the driveshaft), the mast and transmission assembly, and three of the four main rotor blades. The fuselage separated into three sections, the aft portion (including the engine), the center portion (cabin area), and the forward section (cockpit). Following the on-scene examination, the wreckage was recovered and relocated to a hangar for further detailed examination.

 

The closest official weather observation station was Huntsville Municipal Airport (UTS), Huntsville, Texas, located 8 nautical miles (nm) north of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 363 feet msl. The routine aviation weather report (METAR) for UTS, issued at 0235, reported, winds variable at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles; sky condition scattered 1,200 feet; temperature 26 degrees Celsius ©; dew point 23 degrees C; altimeter 29.97 inches.

 

According to the United States Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department Sun and Moon Data, the moon rose at 1023 on the preceding day and set at 0015 the day of the accident. The moon was waxing crescent with 30 percent of the moon's visible disk illuminated.

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