EMS industry sees increase in medical chopper crashes

By Gilbert M. Gaul and Mary Pat Flaherty
The Record Searchlight

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. — Shortly after midnight on a storm-swept October night in 2004, Tom Palcic, a medical helicopter pilot, started across Choctawatchee Bay to pick up a hospital patient and transport him to a facility 60 miles away.

Such flights are common in the highly competitive multibillion-dollar air-medical business. Although the public profile of medical helicopters has them swooping to crash scenes at the edge of highways, most flights, like Palcic's, involve shuttling patients between hospitals.

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