Air Medical Crash Raises Questions of Safety and Past Problems


KOKH-TV (Fox 25) interviewed Slack & Davis attorney Ladd Sanger for this story about the February 22 crash of a medical helicopter in Oklahoma City.

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Air Medical Crash Raises Questions of Safety and Past Problems
February 22, 2013

Air medical crashes are not as rare as many connected to the industry would like them to be and Oklahomans have become all too familiar with these types of tragedies. It was July 22, 2010 that another medical helicopter crashed near Kingfisher. That flight was also operated by EagleMed, the same company that owns the helicopter that crashed Friday in Oklahoma City.

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is still investigating the 2010 crash that killed pilot Al Harrison and Flight Nurse Ryan Duke. Only the flight EMT, Mike Eccard survived. He was thrown from the helicopter just before it crashed into a farm field.

The NTSB says typically crash investigations wrap up in 18 months, but this one has lasted nearly twice that long. A spokesman for the agency says the 2010 EagleMed crash is under review right now and should be finished in a few months. However, the key to finding out what happened may lie in the memory of the sole survivor.

Mike Eccard says he remembers everything about what happened, but hasn’t been able to speak about it publicly. He has filed a lawsuit against EagleMed and the estate of pilot Al Harrison. “Our claim against EagleMed we have asserted negligence and recklessness against EagleMed and some of the business they perform,” said Kevin Hill one of the attorneys representing Eccard in his lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims EagleMed failed to train pilots and knew that the helicopter was “intentionally operated in a dangerous manner.” In its own court filings EagleMed has denied all the allegations of negligence related to the 2010 crash.

The company that owns EagleMed is also facing criticism from other experts in the aviation and legal field. Air Medical Group Holdings out of Dallas has been the agency in charge of helicopters involved in three helicopter accidents in the past four months according to Ladd Sanger an attorney and helicopter pilot.

“Anytime you have an operator that has two fatal events and three events in such a short time period, you gotta look at the operation,” Sanger told Fox 25. “Because turbine helicopters with professional pilots, should be and typically are much more reliable and safe.”

In 2009 the NTSB recommended 10 changes to improve air medical safety. To date, the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to adopt all those recommendations. The FAA did take some under advisement, but Sanger says both the agency and the industry have failed to act fast enough to prevent tragedies.

“The industry thought they had solved some of the problems by the voluntary standards that they put in place in 2010 and the industry, as well as the hospitals should see that from what we’ve had from the past four or five months what they put in place isn’t working.”

Link to the KOKH-TV “Fox 25” story here.