A medical helicopter crashed in Oklahoma late Thursday night, killing one and injuring two — making it the second deadly crash of a helicopter based out of an area hospital since 2013.
The helicopter, registered to hospital-contracted air medical transport company EagleMed, LLC, crashed under unknown circumstances while carrying three company employees between two cities within the state.
“The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, was flying from Tulsa to McAlester when it went down west of Lake Eufaula, near the Canadian River,” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.
Following the incident, EagleMed President Larry Bugg released a prepared statement, offering his sympathies and subsequently identifying the victims of the crash.
“First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those involved and our entire EagleMed family,” Bugg said, before identifying the accident victims as pilot Matt Matthews, Nurse Kim Ramsey and Paramedic Ryan Setzkorn.
According to Bugg, Matthews died in the crash while Ramsey and Setzkorn sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The two injured crew members were treated at the McAlester Regional Health Center (MRHC), according to MRHC CEO David Keith. No patients were on board the helicopter when it crashed, Keith confirmed.
“Two were treated in this hospital,” Keith said, with one listed in stable condition and another in fair condition as of early Friday.
Keith also expressed his care for the families of the crash victims.
“We know these people,” he said. “There’s a lot of people with tears right now.”
Although hospital officials declined to release the patients’ identities, it was later confirmed that Setzkorn was eventually released from the hospital while Ramsey was taken to a Tulsa medical facility for further treatment.
The helicopter took off from the McAlester hospital to airlift a 13-year-old boy who was hit by an SUV Thursday evening while riding a skateboard, according to police.
The EagleMed helicopter was headed back to McAlester when the crash occurred.
According to Lunsford, both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were made aware of the crash with the NTSB now in charge of the investigation and all updates regarding the incident.
The NTSB is not expected to have a final report for months.
“At this point we are just collecting information. A preliminary report will be posted in five to 10 days but it won’t have a cause for 12 to 18 months,” said Keith Hollaway, public affairs officer for the NTSB.
Holloway mentioned that the aircraft will be moved to a secure facility for further investigation.
Presently, nothing decided regarding EagleMed’s contract with the hospital. However, MRHC’s Keith is eager to discuss matters with the company, considering the crash marked the second helicopter crash involving an EagleMed Medical Flight from the McAlester Regional Health Center.
“I’m awaiting a meeting (with) EagleMed leadership,” the hospital CEO said. “There have been four crashes in Oklahoma. I want them to come to my board and explain their safety record and information on the incidents in Oklahoma.”
Regarding whether or not EagleMed will station another helicopter at the McAlester hospital, Keith said he planned to talk with the EagleMed leadership about how that will be handled.
Thursday’s crash is the second in two years involving EagleMed and the Oklahoma hospital. On June 11, 2013, a Eurocopter AS350-B2 based out of MRHC crashed after takeoff from the Choctaw National Indian Health Care Center in Talihina, Oklahoma.
In the accident, a patient who had been picked up at the hospital died in the crash, according to David Wharton, public information officer for the Choctaw Nation Health Services.
A paramedic and the pilot who were on board the helicopter during the 2013 crash were treated and released. A flight nurse suffered critical injuries, EagleMed spokesperson Robbie Copeland said.
David Dishman and James Beatty contributed to this story.