DENVER, Colorado — A medical helicopter crash that killed the pilot and seriously injured a flight nurse and flight paramedic was preventable, according to federal investigators.
On Tuesday, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the July 3, 2015, crash in Frisco stemmed from a pre-flight check in which the pilot, Patrick Mahany, turned off a switch that cut hydraulic pressure to the tail rotor.
Mahany, 64, probably did not turn the switch back on and did not complete a “hover check” while taking off, which would have identified the problem at an altitude that could have allowed for a safe landing, according to the NTSB report.
The Flight For Life helicopter reached an altitude of about 100 feet before the pilot lost control. The helicopter went down and immediately burst into flames next to the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, killing Mahany and critically injuring flight paramedic David Repsher and flight nurse Matthew Bowe.
Video of the crash showed the helicopter lifting off and then twisting to the left before rotating several times and crashing into a recreational vehicle near the helipad.
The NTSB report says investigators found several safety issues that, if addressed, could have prevented the crash.
The two stand-out issues are:
- Lack of a cockpit warning to alert the pilot of the hydraulic problem.
- The helicopter was not equipped with a crash-resistant fuel system.
If not for these two issues, it is believed the medical helicopter crash would have been survivable.
Federal investigators highlighted that, going forward, the type of Airbus helicopter involved in the crash must have better crash protections, including spill-resistant fuel tanks.
Additional information supporting the conclusion the aircraft design contributed to the severity of injuries in this crash is here.
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