Hospital responds to helicopter crash report

By: Morgan Downing Email
By: Morgan Downing Email

TALIHINA, OK -- Ten days after an EagleMed helicopter crashed in Talihina, killing the patient on board and seriously injuring a Johnston County flight nurse, the preliminary cause of that crash is released.

The report released by the National Transportation Safety Board confirms the helicopter's rotor blade disk hit a 41 foot tall metal light pole. But, the helicopter did not take off from it's designated landing pad, and one attorney says that is not standard procedure.

Shortly after taking off from from the Choctaw Nation Healthcare Center in Talihina, around 6:30 p.m., June 11th, EagleMed 35 crashed just 20 yards from the hospital.

The NTSB preliminary report states another medical helicopter had already landed on the single space helipad. So, EagleMed 35 landed on a road next to the helipad. When it took off, a rotor hit a light pole on the side of the road -- causing the pilot to lose control.

Hospital spokesman David Wharton says the hospital has a designated alternate landing area in an open field nearby, but the hospital doesn't require pilots to use it.

"We don't dictate to a pilot exactly where they land. It's the pilots determination for the safety of the aircraft and crew where they put down their aircraft," he said.

"That's a very non-standard procedure."

Attorney Mike Slack represents several victims and families of those involved in medical helicopter crashes nationwide -- including the family of one of the victims of February's EagleMed crash in Oklahoma City. He says the findings in this report concern him.

"Usually, hospitals work with the helicopter community to establish safe procedures particularly in what's called multi-use helipad situations," Slack said.

Wharton said he does not know why the pilot chose to land in the road versus the designated area.

"I'm sure he felt that he was putting the helicopter down in as safe a place he could find," Wharton said.

The crash killed patient, 49 -year-old Michael David Wilson and critically injured flight nurse and Coleman resident Tosha Whitmire, who also works at MCSO in Durant. Whitmire is still in a Tulsa hospital and friends say she's slowly making progress.

This is the third fatal crash for EagleMed in Oklahoma since 2010. The company's accreditation was placed on hold following this crash.

"We did not have a concern with EagleMed prior to the incident," Wharton said.

"You're probably going to see the FAA accelerating it's interest in understanding whether there's some operating dificiencies at EagleMed that need immediate attention," Slack said.

A benefit dinner and auction for the flight nurse, Tosha Whitmire, is being held Sunday at the Coleman Community building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you'd like to help Whitmire an account has been opened at all Landmark Bank donations. Make your payments "for the benefit of Tosha Whitmire".


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