More on Helicopters

From JEMS:

NTSB urges steps to prevent air ambulance crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board issued stringent safety recommendations for air ambulances Wednesday, after investigating 55 crashes that killed 54 people and seriously injured 19 others between 2002 and 2005.

Included in the NTSB’s inquiry, which focused on the crashes of 41 helicopters and 14-fixed wing aircraft, was the fatal flight of a Colorado air ambulance company in which a crew of three died in early 2005.

The number of crashes, fatalities and injuries “clued us in that there were safety issues” and led to the recommendations, said Lauren Peduzzi, spokeswoman for the NTSB.

The recommendations, made to the Federal Aviation Administration which is the rule-making agency, include:

* Impose the same safety rules for flights going to pick up patients as those with patients on aboard.

The NTSB said that 35 of the 55 accidents reviewed involved flights with no patients on board, including the Steamboat Springs-based Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crash near Rawlins, Wyo., on Jan. 11, 2005.

* Require that air ambulance operators have risk-evaluation procedures that assess weather, geography, aircraft safety and pilot fatigue before every flight.

The NTSB said the formal risk procedures might have prevented 13 of the 55 accidents, including the Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crash.

* Require flight-dispatch rules for operators that include updated weather information for pilots, aircraft tracking and arrival notification.

Those dispatch rules might have prevented 11 of the 55 accidents, including the Rawlins flight, which ran into heavy snows and crashed into a ridge 2 1/2 miles from the runway’s end.

* Require that helicopter air ambulances have Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems. The NTSB said that the warning systems could have prevented 17 of the 55 accidents.

The FAA already requires the warning systems on turbine-powered airplanes with six passengers.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration require air ambulance operators to:

* Impose the same safety regulations for flights with patients and those without patients.

* Create and follow a flight-risk evaluation program.

* Implement dispatch operations that include up-to-date weather for pilots and flight tracking.

* Install Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems on all aircraft and train personnel to use the equipment.

More on Helicopter Crashes


BALTIMORE — Post-crash fires, darkness or bad weather greatly decrease the likelihood of surviving an emergency medical service (EMS) helicopter crash, according to a study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Improving crashworthiness of helicopters and reducing trips during hazardous conditions can decrease EMS helicopter fatality rates. The study was recently published online by Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“Crashes of EMS helicopters have increased in recent years, raising concern for patients, as well as pilots, paramedics and flight nurses,” said Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management and Center for Injury Research and Policy. “Our study found that darkness more than triples the risk of fatalities when EMS helicopters crash and that bad weather increases the risk eight-fold. Helicopter EMS programs should recognize these risky conditions and transport patients by air only when the benefit clearly exceeds the risk of the flight.”

The study authors examined National Transportation Safety Board records of EMS helicopter crashes between January 1, 1983, and April 30, 2005. During the 22-year study period, 184 occupants died in 182 EMS helicopter crashes. A majority (77 percent) of crashes occurred when weather conditions required pilots to fly primarily by referencing their instruments rather than using outside visual cues. In darkness, 56 percent of crashes were fatal, as compared with 24 percent of crashes not in darkness. One in four EMS helicopters is likely to crash during 15 years of service. The death rate for EMS flight crew members is 20 times the rate of all U.S. workers.

Former Va. EMT pleads no contest in prank death of colleague

From JEMS:

LEBANON, Va. — A judge convicted a former rescue squad worker of involuntary manslaughter for zapping a co-worker with defibrillator paddles in what turned out to be a deadly prank.

Joshua Philip Martin, 25, faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in March. Circuit Court Judge Michael Lee Moore, who found him guilty after Martin entered a no contest plea, said Monday he likely will order prison time.

Martin had been on the job four days when he carried out the deadly prank on June 1.

Courtney Hilton Rhoton told Martin not to touch her with the paddles, but moments later, he placed the device on her chest and shoulder and activated it, prosecutors said.

The 23-year-old mother of two small children went into cardiac arrest. Her body first stiffened and then went limp. Rhoton, who had been an emergency medical technician for one year, never regained consciousness and died three days later.