Medical copter crashes in Texas; 1 dead, 3 hurt
Fire chief: Medical crew waiting on the copter was first on scene at fiery crash and made heroic effort to save coworkers
The Associated Press
WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A medical helicopter crashed early Saturday a few blocks from a North Texas hospital where it was headed, killing a patient it was transporting from nearby Oklahoma and seriously injuring the pilot and two medical personnel who were aboard, authorities said.
The helicopter, operated by Air Evac Lifeteam, was taking the patient from Waurika, Oklahoma, to United Regional Health Care in Wichita Falls, about 35 miles to the southwest, when it crashed just before 2 a.m., Fire Chief Jon Reese told the Times Record News.
"The crews are pretty tore up, families are devastated," Reese said.
The patient died at the scene. The pilot was in serious but stable condition at United Regional. The flight nurse and paramedic were in critical condition at the Parkland Hospital burn unit in Dallas, about 125 miles to the southeast.
Their names were not immediately released, but the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the patient who died may have been the victim of a shooting Friday night at an apartment in Waurika. Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown told The Associated Press it would be up to the district attorney's office in Waurika to decide whether to pursue a murder charge in the shooting case.
The Bell 206 LongRanger III helicopter crashed on a downtown street next to a parking lot and missed nearby structures. Reese, the Wichita Falls fire chief, said an Air Evac Lifeteam crew already awaiting the chopper's arrival reached the crash site first and found the aircraft on fire but intact.
"They made a heroic effort in saving their co-workers," Reese said.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the crash scene, city officials said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in this accident," Daniel Sweeza, vice president of operations for the O'Fallon, Missouri-based Air Evac Lifeteam, said in a statement. The aircraft involved was based out of Duncan, Oklahoma, he said.
Air Evac Lifeteam on its website describes itself as the nation's largest independently owned and operated air ambulance company. It employs 2,400 people and is the largest air ambulance provider in nine of the 15 states where it has 113 bases, primarily in rural areas in the Midwest and South.