The March 12, 2015, medical helicopter crash near Eufaula, Oklahoma, is the fourth fatal EagleMed helicopter crash in Oklahoma since 2010. “The air medical industry accident rate is soaring and action needs to be taken,” says Ladd Sanger, partner with Slack & Davis. Slack & Davis represented the family of a deceased passenger in an EagleMed air ambulance that crashed in February 2013 in Oklahoma. Mr. Sanger was interviewed for this Tulsa TV news story.
Aviation Lawyer Says Eufaula EagleMed Crash Not A Wake-Up Call
Reporter: Allison Harris, News On 6 (Tulsa, OK)
EUFAULA, Oklahoma – NTSB investigators said initial reports show the weather likely played a part in the crashing of an EagleMed helicopter that killed a pilot.
A lawyer, who has represented a victim in a previous EagleMed crash, said Thursday night’s crash is no wake up call for the air ambulance industry.
There have been so many fatalities, he said, it’s past that point.
Sadly, aviation lawyer, Ladd Sanger, said he’s not surprised about another crash involving an air ambulance.
He knows EagleMed is doing more to prevent accidents, but obviously, it’s not enough.
Sanger defended the victims of an EagleMed crash in Oklahoma City in 2013 where the pilot and a nurse died and a paramedic was injured.
Since then, there have been two more fatal crashes; the most recent was Thursday night, where Pilot Matt Matthews was killed.
“I will say I’m concerned about the safety history of EagleMed with four fatal crashes. That is significantly higher than the paramedical helicopter industry average,” said Sanger.
There were 62 air ambulance accidents between 1991 and 2010, claiming 125 lives.
Last year, the FAA issued new, stricter flight rules and procedures.
EagleMed has implemented new policies, but still has the highest accident rate in the industry, according to Sanger.
“In my experience, the EagleMed folks have been very cooperative and attempted to do everything to help us get compensation for the victims’ families,” he said.
Sanger lists three contributing factors to air ambulance crashes – weather, environment, including power lines, and the stress of getting to the scene.
“There is competitive pressure to always get to the scene and always transport a patient and not turn down trips, even though the prudent thing to do would be to turn down trips,” Sanger said.
He said many air transports should be done on the ground.
“Too often there are flights that are not medically necessary just to justify the use of keeping the helicopter at the hospital,” he said.
Sanger now expects the NTSB to bring the aircraft to Dallas, but send the engine to the manufacturer for further investigation.
The president of EagleMed issued a statement saying the company will work closely with NTSB investigators.