Baltimore Sun’s Review of 26 Deadly Medevac Crashes Indicates that Not All Victims Needed Air Transport

The Baltimore Sun recently looked through crash records and other key documents related to 26 deadly medevac crashes that have occurred In the US since 2003. The newspaper’s findings indicate that many of the cases involved victims that were being transported by air even though they weren’t “minutes-from-death.”

The Baltimore Sun chose to review the medical helicopter crash findings after last month’s medevac crash that killed four people in Prince George’s County, Maryland raised questions about whether medical helicopter travel was necessary to save two auto crash victim’s lives. The Maryland chopper used to transport the two victims lacked the terrain-awareness system that could have allowed the pilot to detect that he was flying too close to trees. One of the teen victims died in the aviation crash.

While there are many instances where air travel saves the lives of victims who are very sick or seriously injured in accidents, not all of the 26 medevac helicopters that crashed appeared to have been carrying victims whose lives could only be saved if they were transported by air.

Findings include:

• In eight cases, patients actually waited longer for a helicopter than they would have waited if an ambulance drove them to a hospital.
• In six cases, patients were discharged soon after the chopper left them at hospitals or they were transported in long ambulance rides after the helicopter dropped them off.
• 13 of the 26 medevac crashes happened while patients were being flown to hospitals.
• Many of the patients had to wait for hours for a helicopter to arrive and while it was readied for take off.

• One patient was transported by air just 10 miles to a hospital.

Since last month’s accident, the state of Maryland has defended its approximately 4,500 medevac flights a year, saying that they are needed to save lives. It also has implemented a change that will limit the number of flights that are not medically necessary. While patients with serious injuries will be flown by helicopter when air travel will help save their lives by reducing travel time, doctors will have to be consulted before patients with less severe injuries can be transported by medical helicopter.

Meantime, doctors are calling for a review of medevac flights from a medical perspective and whether new guidelines need to be put in place to make sure that a person’s injuries or illness warrants the urgency of air travel.

Unnecessary flight risks?,, October 23, 2008
Doctors question use of medevac helicopter,, October 23, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Copter lacked equipment,, October 24, 2008
Medevac helicopters under scrutiny, USA Today, September 29, 2008

Contact our Maryland aviation accident lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen to discuss your personal injury claim or wrongful death case.

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