FAA: 2 killed when medical helicopter crashes in field after leaving Okla. City medical center

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FAA: 2 killed in Okla. medical helicopter crash

OKLAHOMA CITY — A medical helicopter on its way to pick up a patient crashed in a secluded field in central Oklahoma late Thursday, killing the pilot and one of the two nurses on board, authorities said.

The helicopter was en route from Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City to a hospital about 90 miles away in Okeene when it went down about 8 p.m. near Kingfisher, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford. Kingfisher is about 50 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

“Three people were on board, but one of them survived and is in the process of being airlifted back to Oklahoma City,” Lunsford said late Thursday.

The pilot, Al Harrison, and nurse Ryan Duke died in the crash, according to a statement released early Friday by EagleMed LLC, the Wichita, Kan.-based company that operates the A-Star 350 helicopter.

EagleMed spokeswoman Shelia Rupp-Haag said Michael Eccard, a nurse and paramedic, was taken to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Hospital spokesman Allen Poston said Eccard’s condition had changed from fair to serious Friday morning.

Poston said Eccard’s wife has asked that no information other than his condition be released.

Rupp-Haag said no patient was on board, and that the circumstances of the crash were still uncertain.

Kingfisher Mayor Jack Stuteville, who owns property near the crash site, was among the first on the scene. He said a man working on the land called him and told him he’d just seen a helicopter spin, then hit the ground.

“By the time I got there it was already burned to pieces. The bodies were charred beyond recognition. It was bad,” Stuteville said.

The lone survivor was about 50 yards from the wreckage, he said.

“I have yet to figure out how he got out — if he was thrown out or had enough adrenaline to get out on his own,” Stuteville said.

He described the area as secluded, with only few homes nearby. “The neighbors didn’t even know anything had happened until all the news helicopters started flying around,” he said.

Integris Baptist spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said the hospital contracts with EagleMed for its medical flight services.

“They are not our employees, but it is our pain anytime something like this happens,” Cayot said.

A woman answering the phone at Okeene Municipal Hospital said she didn’t have any information about the crash.

Investigators with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the crash site, Lunsford said.

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