The Kansas City Star reports that the helicopter was responding to a call and had just lifted off its helipad, when, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, it lost one of its engines and crashed down on its helipad in the small town of La Monte (10 miles west of Sedalia, Missouri) only a few feet away from a container of jet fuel and a number of propane tanks.
The helicopter, operated by Air Methods, was about 200 feet in the air when the lost engine failed. Nearby fire departments, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and a hazmat team responded to the crash.
La Monte’s Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Mariah Durham, was one of the first responders on the scene and spoke to the pilot following the accident. She told local station KRCG that the helicopter pilot’s quick-thinking was responsible for preventing a tragedy.
“He said one of the engines blew up and so when that happened he had no control and he knew they were going to go down so he went ahead and shut the engine off so when they hit the ground they wouldn’t explode,” she said. “That was amazing on his behalf, that he could think that quickly and get it done that quickly because I mean like I said, they were only 200 feet off the pad.”
“There was absolutely no blood on the scene, no cuts, no abrasions, anything like that. No broken bones that I could tell. The only thing they complained about were back injuries,” the Assistant Chief added.
The three crew members who were on board, a pilot, a flight nurse, and a paramedic, were air-transported to University Hospital in Columbia by three additional helicopters for their injuries.
No patient was on board during the crash. The three crew members are all listed in fair condition following the incident. The La Monte V.F.D. Assistant Chief did not believe the injuries to be life threatening.
Sedalia is located approximately at the midpoint between the cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, Missouri. Columbia’s University Hospital operates three helicopters including the one that crashed near Sedalia. Another is stationed at the hospital in Columbia and a third is stationed at the Lake of the Ozarks. These stations are designed to cover a wide area of Central Missouri, which is largely rural.
According to KRCG, the hospital is unsure at this time when the air ambulance will be replaced.
Air Methods says the helicopter crash is currently under investigation.
Tony Molinaro, spokesman for the FAA, concurred with Air Methods’ statement and said the cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Air Ambulance Weekly will follow this developing story and update this post if more details become available.
Our thoughts are with the crew and their families and we wish them a speedy recovery.
As of December 23, three of the crew on board at the time of the crash are still listed in stable condition. Air Methods grounded their Staff for Life helicopters following the accident, but both of the remaining helicopters were back in service by 7a.m. the following morning. According to KOMU’s interview with Air Methods’ spokesperson Joan Drake, the helicopters were only down for about 12 hours.
Craig Yale, the vice president of Air Methods of Colorado, said grounding is the standard procedure in a case like this.
“We usually do some type of safety stand down for a period of 12 to 24 hours. It really depends on when the crews are comfortable about being able to go back to work,” he said.
He added, “There’s nothing about this so far that would give us any reason to believe that there’s anything systematic. It’s isolated, we believe, to the aircraft.”
Photo Credit: KOMU; KCRG