On 2 January, two helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) aircraft were involved in separate accidents in Iowa and Oklahoma, US.
An EC130 Mediflight helicopter operated by Air Methods made a hard landing northeast of Seminole Municipal Airport, Oklahoma, resulting in injuries for all those onboard – the pilot, two nurses and a paramedic. Betsy Randolph, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer, told reporters that the helicopter suffered damage to its landing gear and rear rotor. Randolph also stated that the pilot had said he believed the aircraft had suffered from engine failure.
On the same day, a Med-Trans helicopter, flying as Mercy Air Med for the Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa Hospital, crashed en route to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient; the three-strong crew lost their lives in the accident. The hospital authorities confirmed that Mercy Air Med crashed at around 21:00 hrs on 2 January and named the medical crew as nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl.
Dan Varnum, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, said: “I know their colleagues in healthcare are grieving the loss with their loved ones. The entire organisation and I send prayers to all who knew them. They were committed and dedicated to serving the people of Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota.” He added: “They were each selfless healthcare professionals devoted to the delivery of emergency medical care. While they fulfilled significant duties, they played a greater role as our neighbours and friends.”
A statement from the hospital said that the cause of the incident was unknown.
Just days earlier, on 28 December, an AeroCare helicopter, also operated by Med-Trans, made an emergency landing while transporting a patient. The patient was transferred to a different air ambulance helicopter for onward transport to Shannon Medical Center, San Angelo, Texas, according to Department of Public Safety trooper Shawn Baxter. The flight nurse was taken to Midland Memorial Hospital to be treated for injuries received in the landing. The pilot, patient and paramedic who were also onboard the helicopter were unharmed.
According to reports, the pilot had to make a hard landing after a mechanical malfunction occurred and all power was lost.