Fatal Medical Helicopter Crash in Tennessee

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Early on Tuesday morning, October 22, 2013, at approximately 6:20AM, a medical helicopter crashed in southwestern Tennessee near Somerville, about halfway between Memphis and the crew's destination of Bolivar. The horrific crash killed the pilot and two Memphis children's hospital workers, as they were on their way to pick up a boy who was in renal failure. He was located at a hospital in Bolivar, and planned to be transported to Memphis Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

The boy was then taken by ambulance, after officials found out about the crash. They began searching when the helicopter's crew members did not respond during a routine 10-minute check-in. According to Meri Armour, President and CEO of the hospital, the helicopter was cleared for weather and fight plans. Sadly, it never reached its destination.

Tuesday's fatal crash was Hospital Wing's second crash in approximately three years. Hospital Wing is a non-profit air medical transport that provides services in West Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, and Kentucky. In March 2010, a Hospital Wing helicopter crash killed three individuals, when the pilot attempted to outrun a storm.

According to Bill Conway, CEO of Hospital Wing, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are currently investigating what caused the crash. "It saddens me more than you can know. All three of these crew members were personal friends of mine," he said.

According to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, the deceased include a pilot and two hospital workers. 43-year old Carrie Barlow worked as a registered nurse for thirteen years, lived in Halls with her husband, Keith, and raised three children. 43-year old Denise Adams worked as a respiratory nurse for eight years, lived in Arlington with her husband, Rodney, and raised three children. 47-year old Charles Smith, was a pilot who began his career in 2012 after twenty-five years serving for the aviation unit of the Memphis Police Department, who lived in Eads with his wife, Chi, and two sons.

"They have taken care of so many kids in their short lives...I can't tell you how incredibly difficult it is for the entire team," said Dr. Jay Pershad, medical doctor of Pedi-Flite, Le Bonheur's air transport program. The staff members of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital go on more than 400 helicopter flights a year and is the only pediatric transport service offered within a 130-mile radius.

According to statistics provided by NTSB, there was one fatal helicopter emergency medical services crash in the years 2011 and 2012 throughout the United States. In 2013, there have been five fatal crashes, including Tuesday's crash, that have killed a total of twelve people.

"It's going to take quite a while to get to the bottom of everything," said Ralph Hicks, NTSB investigator. A preliminary report is to be expected within the next week, but a final report could take more than a year to be produced.

A celebration of remembrance is occurring on Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at 10:00AM at Hope Presbyterian Church, 8500 Walnut Grove Road, Cordova.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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