NTSB Says Maryland Helicopter Involved in Weekend Crash That Killed Four Victims Did Not Have Terrain-Awareness System Equipment

The National Transportation Board Says that the Maryland State Medical Rescue Helicopter that crashed into Prince George’s County Park on Saturday night was not carrying the terrain-awareness system that could have notified the pilot that he was hovering precariously close to trees. Four people died in the aviation accident, including a teenager who was being transported from a Southern Maryland car crash to a hospital.

The crash is considered the “deadliest medavac helicopter accident” in the state’s history and is the 8th crash of this kind in the US over the past 12 months. Victims from Saturday’s aviation accident included 17-year-old car crash victim Ashley J. Younger, onboard paramedic Tonya Mallard, Trooper Mickey C. Lippy, and retired state trooper Steven J. Bunker, who was piloting the helicopter.

Officials say that the injuries of the two car crash victims, including neck, chest, and side pains, warranted the use of the helicopter. The fact that the vehicle involved in the Charles County crash was crushed was another reason for the decision to transport the victims by air. One of the motor vehicle crash victims, 18-year-old Jordan Wells, survived the copter crash.

It took rescuers a little over two hours from the time the helicopter disappeared from the radar to find the crash site. When searchers were unable to track the chopper’s emergency locator transmitter, they used Verizon to track the cell phones of helicopter crewmembers. On Monday, Maryland medical examiners in Baltimore were examining the victims’ bodies to determine whether they were killed by the impact of the crash or if any of them could have been saved if rescuers had found them sooner.

According to NTSB findings regarding 55 EMS aviation crashes between January 2002 and January 2005, 29 of these accidents could have been prevented. One of the recurring safety issues identified was that safety technologies, such as terrain warning systems, are recommended but not required. Following this weekend’s crash, 12 rescue helicopters in Maryland were grounded. Only three of these aviation vehicles are equipped with terrain-warning systems.

Md. Copter Crash Scrutinized, Washington Post, September 30, 2008
Copter lacked equipment, Baltimore Sun, September 30, 2008
4 Killed in Medevac Copter Crash in Maryland, NYTimes.com, September 28, 2008
Board: Lives lost ‘needlessly’ in medical helicopter crashes, CNN.com, September 30, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Medivac Helicopters Under Scrutiny, USA Today, September 30, 2008
National Transportation Safety Board

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