It’s been an extremely difficult year for medical helicopters and the companies that operate them. Last week’s helicopter crash near Somerville, Tennessee, which cost the lives of the pilot, a nurse and a respiratory therapist, brings the air ambulance death toll to 12 so far this year.
It is a sign that things are becoming more dangerous in the medical helicopter field that the company who owned the machine that crashed, Memphis Medical Center Air Ambulance Services Inc., better known as Hospital Wing, had operated for 24 years without a crash, until 2010, when the Memphis-based company lost its status as fatality-free when a crash near Brownsville, Tennessee took the lives of a pilot and two nurses, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation determined that the crash happened because of a “risky decision” by the pilot to try to outrun a thunderstorm. There was another accident later that year that cost the lives of three others. The company had one other fatal crash that year, where it lost three more.
According to a 2011 study by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the medical helicopter safety record is “unacceptable.” They noted that many such services adopt best practices for pilot training, equipment and operations, others have not. The numbers bear this out. In the past 16 years, the annual fatalities have averaged 10.5 per year, and have ranged from three in 2001 and 2012 to 18 in 2004 and 28 in 2008. And the problem seems to be getting worse, with 13 medical helicopters having been involved in fatal crashes since 2010.
The NTSB has made a number of recommendations to curb the number of crashes since 2011, including one that asks the FAA to develop scenario-based training guidelines, including simulators, and to train pilots to fly by instruments when visibility is low. They also suggested that the FAA require medical helicopters be equipped systems that alert pilots regarding to terrain conditions, autopilot and night-vision imaging systems.
If you or a loved one has injured or lost their life in a medical helicopter crash, contact the proven Medical Helicopter Accident Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm today. Considering crew member of a medical helicopter has become one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, those affected must stand up and fight for changes in this industry.