Investigation Begins Into Okla. Medevac Chopper Crash

Investigation Begins Into Okla. Medevac Chopper Crash

News Feb 23, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The company that operates a medical helicopter that crash-landed outside an Oklahoma City nursing home early Friday, killing two people onboard and critically injuring a third, had just recently undergone an exhaustive accreditation process, officials said.

Wichita, Kan.-based EagleMed LLC just received its three-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services in October, said Eileen Frazer, the commission's executive director.

The company's review included an analysis of maintenance records of all its aircraft and crew, including pilots.

A three-man crew was onboard the helicopter when it crashed while headed from Oklahoma City to Watonga, 70 miles away, to pick up a patient, said Fire Department Battalion Chief Marc Woodard. No one on the ground was seriously injured or killed.

Two men in the helicopter, including the pilot, were killed, Nursing home workers were able to pull the lone survivor from the wreckage, and he was taken to a hospital, Woodard said.

Officials at Integris-Baptist Medical Center, where the helicopter was based, identified those killed as pilot Mark Montgomery and flight nurse Chris Denning. Paramedic Billy Wynn was in critical condition Friday evening at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, Integris President Bruce Lawrence said in an email to employees.

A spokesman for EagleMed did not return telephone messages on Friday.

The crash occurred between the St. Ann Retirement Center and the St. Ann Nursing Home, which are operated by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Witnesses said there were two explosions.

"I was awake and I heard this boom and it shook my bed," said Betty Steel, who lives in a retirement village adjacent to the nursing home.

Rachel Njafuh said when she arrived for work at the nursing home, flames and smoke were pouring from the wreckage.

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"My colleagues pulled a man from the (helicopter) just before a second explosion," she said.

Oklahoma City received a dusting of snow from a large storm system that has been moving eastward through the nation's midsection this week. Woodard said the skies were clear Friday morning when the helicopter crash-landed in the northwest of the city.

"I think the pilot did a miraculous job landing it where he did," Woodard said. "It's 65 feet from a nursing home on one side and 150 feet from a retirement village on the other."

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were at the scene within hours, combing through the helicopter's charred remains. An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board was en route late Friday afternoon, an NTSB spokesman said.

One person on the ground suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, said Lara O'Leary, a spokeswoman with Emergency Medical Services Authority.

In July 2010, an EagleMed helicopter crashed in a field in Kingfisher, about 50 miles northwest of Oklahoma. The helicopter's pilot and a nurse onboard the aircraft were killed in the crash.

On that flight, the EagleMed helicopter was headed from Oklahoma City to pick up a patient at a hospital 90 miles away. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released a probable-cause report from the 2010 crash.

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Sean Murphy can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy


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SEAN MURPHY
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