March 25th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

FAA: 3 dead in medical helicopter crash

[Updated 10:55 a.m.] CNN affiliate WMC-TV said the helicopter that crashed was operated by Hospital Wing, an organization that identifies itself on its Web site as the Memphis Medical  Center's air ambulance service.

Hospital Wing said in a statement, reported by WMC-TV, that the crash occurred just east of Brownsville, and that three crew members and no patients were on board. The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating, the statement said.

"Nothing like this has ever happened in our history," Allen Burnette, Hospital Wing's director and chief operating officer, said in the statement.

[Updated at 10:05 a.m.] A helicopter had dropped off a patient in Jackson, Tennessee, and was returning to Brownsville, Tennessee, when a crash was reported about 7:12  a.m. (8:12 a.m. ET), said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Three people were initially reported to be on board the helicopter, Lunsford said. All three were believed to be fatalities, as the aircraft - a Eurocopter AS350 - was burned, he said.

Investigators were en route to the scene of the crash - a field near Brownsville, Lunsford said.

Asked if weather was a factor in the crash, Lunsford said, "obviously, they are going to look at everything." A weather report said there were thunderstorms in the area, but that they had passed by about 7 a.m., he said.

"The big weather system moving through had stopped a few moments before."

Officials believe the helicopter was operating under a Visual Flight Rules plan and not communicating with air traffic controllers, he said.

Visual Flight Rules, or VFR, mean a flight is conducted under visual conditions.

Asked who decides whether the weather is clear enough for a pilot to fly using VFR, Lunsford said, "There are operating guidelines in any aviation  operation, but ultimately the pilot is responsible for [the] safety of [the] aircraft and deciding whether to go forward or not."

- CNN's Carolina Sanchez contributed to this report.

[Posted at 10:05 a.m.] Three people died Thursday when a medical helicopter crashed in Tennessee, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

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soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. josh

    this is sad. why do things like this always happened watt about the family members they must be devastated

    March 25, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Franky12

    A lot of military technaology need to be trickled down to the EMS airlift industry. Billions of dollars and decades of research to destroy lives should find its way into saving lives and make air transport safer for the patients and crews.

    March 25, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. eilis_artis

    My condolences to the families of these brave sould. My son is a flight doctor and the possibility of this happening to him scares me, but it is his dream job. I hope these families realize their loved ones were brave everyday heroes.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. mirza

    well good timing on the drop off of patient but sad to see they crashed

    March 25, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. tamera

    i am so sorry to hear this they are in my heart and prayers..god bless them all..

    March 25, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. GRIM

    God bless them and thier family.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rescue2

    Rest in peace.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Medical helicopters continue to kill people at an alarming rate compared to regular part 135 helicopter operations AND without a clear indication for patient transport or improved outcomes........

    March 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Wright

    as a Paramedic, I pray for these families. THese three people were the true heros....giving their lives so others may live. Peace be with you fellow EMS workers!

    March 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lori

    God bless them and thier familes they were selfless angles who put others first and loved thier work.

    March 25, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sean

    When is the FAA going to start aggressively addressing these air ambulance crashes? They are statistically off the chart in comparison to other air transportation modes. There has to be a root cause, and I believe it has something to do with the amount of regulation these sometimes, fly by night air ambulance operations. There are some organizations that need to cu costs aggressively at the expense of quality and these services should not fall into that category. Obviously, more money needs to go into competency training and maintenance and upkeep of aircraft. The FAA can more aggressively regulate these issues instead of letting the privately owned companies do it themselves. It is obvious they are more interested in turning a profit than the safety of their employees. Im not trying to make assumptions about the operation in Memphis, but simply making a general observation (I work in the industry).

    March 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gail

    I remember when this happened in Cincinnati,Ohio years back. From that time I have always said a prayer for them as I hear them flying over.For all that are on board,to keep them safe,and healing the needs of the one they are trying to help.
    I may not have seen them but I am now praying for all the families that are hurting today because of this.

    March 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pam

    This was NOT a fly by night operation. The Hospital Wing has been in operation since 1985. It had very experienced pilots who had a huge # of flight hours under their belts. One eyewitness was a bolt of lightning and the a fireball at the time of the crash.
    Please do not criticize our Hospital Wing. This is their first tragic accident in the years they have been operational. They have had to set down a couple of times but that is all. I am proud to say we have a top notch Wing. I have known quite a few people throughtout the years who have been a part of the Wing. They were the best. I worked with them in the emergency room and I know how good they were. The Wing today still holds to a high standard.
    I am so very sorry for the Wings loss, the hospitals' loss and family's and friends' loss. God Bless all of you.

    March 25, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jessica

    Cindy Parker was a fantastic trauma nurse. I am praying for her family.

    March 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LT

    This was one of the TOP FLIGHT CREWS in our area. Everyone can make their speculations as to what if and what might have been, but ultimately they paid with their lives to help save another. The Hospital Wing Family is an fantastic group. So please keep your assumptions to yourself without knowing the facts. This is were we post our prayers and thoughts 3 families that now are without their loved one. You guys were Hospital Wing....Now you have your angel wings...fly high and spread your wings our us and we will miss you dearly.

    March 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
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