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Feds Admit Medical Helicopter Crash Was Preventable

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:

  1. Lack of a cockpit warning to alert the pilot of the hydraulic problem.
  2. 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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    2 replies to "Feds Admit Medical Helicopter Crash Was Preventable"

    • Mordechai Scher

      Why use the word “admit”? The Feds aren’t culpable in this case. They investigated, observed, and reported the fact.

      • Troy Shaffer

        Hi Mordechai,

        Great question. Easy answer:

        There were no thoughts about federal culpability in regard to this case or this article’s headline. Your question is the first I considered it.

        You’re absolutely right. The feds have no culpability and take no responsibility, ever. The feds (NTSB in this particular case) have no “skin in the game” and have done nothing to improve air medical safety in at least a decade, arguably much longer.

        The bigger issue is how the feds take no responsibility for anything. Nothing new to see here in that regard. I wish this were more positive, but I prefer honesty.

        Thank you again for commenting and for your question.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds,

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