CONWAY, S.C. — The air-ambulance helicopter company located closest to the majority of Horry County suddenly shut down operations Thursday, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
As reported by WPDE.com, an employee with LifeNet Conway, based out of the Conway-Horry County Airport, said their company is under a "temporary stand-down," although other sources confirmed that its parent company was shutting the subsidiary down, saying the operation did not make enough money.
Officials at several of the area's fire departments said they had been notified that they were not able to call the company moving forward.
LifeNet employees were seen stuffing cardboard boxes into several vehicles before driving away from the airport. Before departing, one employee was overheard telling another, "I hope this isn't the end."
The company's helicopter was also moved inside its hangar, which people familiar with airport operations said was a rare move.
LifeNet was one of four medical helicopter operators in the Myrtle Beach area. Horry County Fire Rescue officials said the other three were based in Marion, Brunswick County, North Carolina, and Whiteville, North Carolina respectively.
That means the Myrtle Beach area has no air-ambulances within the county's borders.
“We will still be able to offer the same level of care, even though they’re not in-county," an HCFR spokesman said. "We have other options.”
LifeNet contracted with Grand Strand Medical Center, Myrtle Beach's Level 1 trauma center. A spokeswoman for the hospital said their quality of care would also remain steady, adding that the hospital had contracts with multiple helicopter operators in the area.
LifeNet has operated in the Horry County area for a few years. At one point, Horry County leaders looked into signing a membership deal with the company at a cost of $2.50 per taxpayer.
At the time, the company's helicopter had completed 50 flights during a 10-month span in Horry County alone.
Air Methods operates air-ambulances across the country. Its Colorado operation, where it is based, has recently faced federal lawsuits for alleged safety issues. The MedEvac industry has also come under increasing pressure for the high cost of flights. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company's earnings had grown in the last quarter.
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