NTSB report details moments leading up to fatal EagleMed helicopter crash

The first of three reports from the NTSB provides information on attempts to navigate lowering clouds by pilot Matt Mathews, who died in the March 12 crash

EUFAULA, Okla. — A report on the fatal EagleMed flight provides an overview of the weather conditions and moments leading up to the medical helicopter crash that killed pilot Matt Mathews on March 12, 2015. Flight nurse Kim Ramsey and flight paramedic Ryan Setzkorn survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report includes details on Mathews’ attempts to navigate lowering clouds. The helicopter left St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla. at 10:48 p.m. and was heading toward McAlester Regional Airport after transporting a patient.

During the transport, Matthews mentioned to the medical crew that clouds were lower than he expected. He descended slightly, and landed at the St. Francis Hospital heliport. While on the ground he checked the weather again, spoke with the medical crew and they decided to begin the return flight back to the airport, according to the NTSB.

At a cruise altitude of about 1,500 feet above sea level, the medical crew reported the helicopter had briefly flown through clouds twice, and after a short discussion Matthews said he was going to divert, and began a left turn to return to Tulsa, Okla. Soon after beginning the turn, the helicopter hit trees and terrain about 850 feet above sea level. The impact separated the tail boom and portions of the fuselage, and the main wreckage came to rest on its side. The fuel tank remained intact; there was no fuel leak and no post-impact fire.

Ramsey and Setzkorn were able to crawl from the wreckage and used a cell phone to call 911 to report the incident and location of the crash. Several agencies used the position report from the crew, data from the on-board GPS and signals from the 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter to locate the wreckage.

Responders hiked in the dark through remote and rugged terrain and arrived several hours later.

Meteorological reports from McAlester Regional Airport indicated the lowest cloud bases were between 900 and 2,100 feet above sea level.

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