Sanctions sought in fatal air medical crash in Ariz.

Crash killed the aircraft's three-member crew


By EMS1 Staff

PHOENIX — Sanctions are being sought against a Colo.-based company in the wake of an air medical crash that killed the helicopter's three person crew.

Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told The Associated Press that the agency wants to lodge a $50,625 fine against Air Methods, which is the parent company of LifeNet Arizona and the helicopter's operator.

A report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board said the crash in Tuscon, Ariz., in July 2010 could have been caused by a contract mechanic's mistake and a lack of proper inspection and testing of his work.

Pilot Alexander Kelley, 61, flight nurse Parker Summons, 41, and paramedic Brenda French, 28, were killed when the helicopter fell 600 feet in about eight seconds, and crashed into a backyard fence. No patients were on board and no one on the ground was injured.

Investigators found that the helicopter's engine had undergone maintenance over several days preceding the accident, related to fuel coking of the fuel injection manifold.

The NTSB determined the probable cause(s) of the accident as:

  • The repair station technician did not properly install the fuel inlet union during reassembly of the engine
  • The operator’s maintenance personnel did not adequately inspect the technician's work
  • The pilot who performed the post maintenance check flight did not follow the helicopter manufacturer's procedures
  • Also causal were the lack of requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration, the operator, and the repair station for an independent inspection of the work performed by the technician
  • A contributing factor was the inadequate oversight of the repair station by the Federal Aviation Administration, which resulted in the repair station performing recurring maintenance at the operator’s facilities without authorization.

The report added that the duty pilot performed a 7.5-minute abbreviated post maintenance check flight the evening before the accident.

"A full maintenance check flight conducted in accordance with the manufacturer's flight manual should, under normal conditions, take 30 to 45 minutes to complete," the report said.

"Had a full check flight been performed, it is likely that the union would have detached from the boss during the check flight."

Craig Yale, Air Methods' vice president of corporate development, said in a statement Tuesday that LifeNet made important changes not long after the crash.

According to The Associated Press, these include requiring the company's staff to inspect the work of any contracted mechanics, and requiring pilots to do full-length maintenance checks.

"This [crash] was several things compounded and some very good people lost their lives," Yale said. "We're going to continue to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again."

He said the lesson learned is to “double check everything, even when the work is done by an outside contractor."

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