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HeliTorque :: View topic - What The Hells Going on at Airlift Northwest
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HeliTorque Forum Index » Flight Safety

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What The Hells Going on at Airlift Northwest
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 5:11 pm    Post subject: What The Hells Going on at Airlift Northwest Reply with quote

One injury in second Airlift NW crash in a month


OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Federal investigators were at Providence-St. Peter Hospital early Saturday, examining debris from the second Airlift Northwest medical-evacuation helicopter crash in a month.

None of the four people on board was seriously injured in the accident, which occurred on takeoff from the hospital roof late Friday. The previous crash, Sept. 29 near Edmonds, killed all three crew members.

One of the three crew members from Friday's accident was hospitalized overnight but expected to be released Saturday, hospital spokeswoman Deborah Shawyer said.

The fourth person in the aircraft was a patient who had been brought to Olympia from Grays Harbor County by ambulance for helicopter evacuation to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.

Weather on the coast was too rough, so the pilot "wisely decided" to do the pickup in Olympia, said Michael Copass, medical director at Airlift Northwest. The patient had "a life-threatening vascular issue," he said.

The patient was not injured in the crash, which occurred immediately after liftoff, but was being treated at St. Peter hospital for the pre-existing problem and unlikely to be moved now, Shawyer said.

"On takeoff, the helicopter lost power and more or less fell off the building," landing between the hospital and an outbuilding, Copass said.

The aircraft was one of two new $4.4 million Augusta A-109 helicopters purchased by Airlift Northwest, he said. "We'd just begun to upgrade the fleet."

"We were somewhat taken aback and grounded the other one" until authorities determine the reason for Friday's crash, Copass said.

The Federal Aviation Administration was on scene Friday night and again Saturday morning, when the National Transportation Safety Board took over the crash investigation, said FAA's Debbie Taylor in Auburn.

Debris from the crash - near the hospital's emergency room - was to be removed Saturday, said Olympia Fire Battalion Chief Pat Noonan.

There was some damage to the building, Shawyer said.

In the Sept. 29 crash, the helicopter was en route from Seattle to its home base in Arlington when it plummeted into Puget Sound, killing pilot Steve Smith, 59, of Whidbey Island, and nurses Erin Reed, 48, and Lois Suzuki, 47, both of Seattle.

In September 1995, a similar accident off Bainbridge Island also claimed three lives.

The crash last month involved a helicopter that was 18 to 20 years old and not equipped with a night-vision system - one of the upgrades in the chopper that went down Friday.

Before the accident last month, Airlift Northwest had operated six helicopters from four bases around the region. A replacement chopper was brought in shortly after that crash.

But with Friday's accident and the idling of the second new helicopter, the company is down to four.

Seattle-based Airlift Northwest provides emergency air transport for critically ill or injured patients in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and western Canada.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Airlift Helicopter Crashes At Olympia Hospital

OLYMPIA - An Airlift Northwest medevac helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia late Friday night, but all four people who were on board survived.

A regional supervisor for the Federal Aviation Administration said the Augusta A109E helicopter struck the hospital and crashed near the emergency room after having some sort of mechanical problem about 11:24 p.m.

"I heard this really funky noise and I'm watching it and all of a sudden it starts going sideways," said Nadine Lopez. "It just came down 'whoosh.' It was level and it just fell."

The pilot and one flight nurse were able to walk away from the crash. A second nurse was treated for minor injures.

The patient who was onboard also survived and was being treated at St. Peter Hospital. Hospital officials declined to release information about his condition.

The helicopter was lifting off from St. Peter for a flight to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle when it went down.

Olympia Fire Department Captain Kate McDonald said the crash sparked a small fire which was quickly extinguished, but that fuel leaking from the downed aircraft forced the hospital to evacuate patients from part of the emergency room.

William Knight was inside the emergency room when the copter crashed down outside. "I heard the helicopter take off and then I seen it coming down at an angle and I remember seeing the glass breaking and my girlfriend and I ducked behind some vending machines," he said.

A hospital security guard suffered minor injuries while trying to help people from the wreckage.

"After spending time in the military and being around pilots, that's one hell of a pilot," said Shawn Truesdale, who witnessed the crash. "Seriously. He made the best out of a bad situation, if you think about it."

The names of the helicopter crew have not been released and damage to the hospital building was minimal.

Officials from the FAA were on scene early Friday morning and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were expected to arrive later in the day.

On September 29, an Airlift Northwest copter went down in Puget Sound near Edmonds, killing pilot Steve Smith and nurses Erin Reed and Lois Suzuki.

In that incident the helicopter was returning from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to its base in Arlington with no patient on board.
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