Joined: May 08, 2005 Posts: 1078 Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 9:34 pm Post subject: Crashed EMS Helicopter Found
BRADFORD, Pa. (AP) _ A medical helicopter was found crashed and its pilot dead on Sunday in dense woods about five miles from an airport where the craft was to have landed for refueling on Friday.
The LifeStar helicopter and 18-year veteran pilot Heinz Schulz were found at about 1:15 p.m. near Bradford Regional Airport. Schulz, 59, of Erie, the only occupant, was apparently killed upon impact, according to a news release from Emergycare Inc. of Erie, which owned the helicopter.
The National Transportation Safety Board was at the crash scene, about 75 miles southeast of Erie. Officials didn't immediately return calls for comment Sunday.
Emergycare Inc. of Erie also employed the helicopter's medical crew members, who were not on board when it crashed.
Company officials referred all questions to CJ Systems Aviation Group of West Mifflin, which employed Schulz and contracted to provide the LifeStar Service out of St. Vincent Medical Center and Hamot Medical centers in Erie. CJ Systems also employed the LifeStar pilots and mechanics.
CJ Systems president Larry Pietropaulo said Schulz had flown to Kane Community Hospital in McKean County, where he was to pick up a patient to be transported to a Pittsburgh hospital.
While two Emergycare crew members went into the hospital to prepare the patient for the trip, Schulz took off at 11:36 p.m. Friday to make a short refueling flight to Bradford Regional Airport. Schulz had plenty of fuel to reach the airport, Pietropaulo said, but was getting more fuel for the planned trip to Pittsburgh.
The helicopter was last in radio contact with the ground at 11:41 p.m. Friday, when Schulz requested clearance to land at the Bradford airport. He never arrived, and search and rescue crews couldn't find the helicopter on Saturday. Scores of volunteers joined the search at daybreak Sunday.
It wasn't immediately clear whether a mechanical failure or some other problem was to blame for the crash, Pietropaulo said.
There was a light mist and temperatures were around 50 degrees when the helicopter disappeared. Schulz was flying under Instrument Flight Rules, meaning he had to rely on the helicopter's instruments to navigate because of poor visibility.
"The poor visibility should not have been a problem," Pietropaulo said. "The weather wasn't that bad and he was a veteran pilot in an instrument-rated craft with complete autopilot."
The Italian-made Agusta 109E helicopter had been in service about three years and had no maintenance problems, Pietropaulo said.
Pietropaulo said he doesn't believe his company has ever had a fatal crash in Pennsylvania, but another medical helicopter hired by the company crashed near Edmond, Wash., on Sept. 29. All three crew aboard that Seattle-based Airlift Northwest helicopter died.
LifeStar helicopters have flown out of the Erie hospitals since May 1986. They serve several counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, southwestern New York and northeastern Ohio, Gibbons said.
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