Tennessee Medical Helicopter Crash Kills Three

Early Tuesday (10/22/13), a medical helicopter operated by Hospital Wing, crashed near Somerville, Tennessee, killing the pilot and two medical crew members. Hospital Wing, an air ambulance operation that transports patients by helicopter, left Memphis and was headed to Bolivar, Tennessee to pick up an ailing child.

“The risk of an air ambulance helicopter crash escalates greatly when flying in reduced light or reduced visibility conditions. There were storms moving through West Tennessee early this morning so investigators will be examining the role weather and darkness may have played in the crash,” said Michael Slack, founding partner of Slack Davis Sanger, a national law firm that has handled numerous air ambulance (medical) helicopter cases, as well as aviation disasters nationally and internationally.

Mr. Slack further stated, “This is the second fatal crash for Hospital Wing. In 2010, one of its pilots attempted to outrun a storm and encountered adverse weather resulting in the crash. NTSB report about the 2010 crash (NTSB Identification: ERA10MA188).

Mr. Slack is the author of “Air Ambulance Operations: Too Little, Too Late and “Air Ambulance Operations: Enhancing Public Safety or Causing Unnecessary Tragedy?”
as well as a licensed pilot.

As we investigate this latest crash, Mr. Slack’s questions and concerns include:

  • What is Hospital Wing’s “go/no-go” weather criteria, particularly in light of the 2010 crash?
  • How was dispatch for the flight handled? Was the pilot aware that the patient was an ailing child and did that affect his decision to make the flight?
  • What was the pilot’s experience flying in darkness and low visibility conditions and what equipment was on board to mitigate the risk?
  • Did the child’s medical condition justify a helicopter transport in the first place or were the medical crew members placed at risk unnecessarily?

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