Okla. lawmaker to study medical helicopter safety

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state senator has called for a study over the safety of medical helicopters after several fatal crashes involving the aircraft in Oklahoma.

Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre, said medical helicopters are crucial in rural areas far from large medical centers, but that safety issues must be studied by the state.

“It saves lives,” Ivester said. “There is no doubt about it. The question would be is it overused and is it as safe as it should be. It’s definitely something I am going to look into.”

Ivester told The Oklahoman on Thursday (http://bit.ly/15AhIwB ) that he’s considering a recommendation from the University of Oklahoma’s emergency medicine department, which said accreditation should be mandatory for medical helicopter companies. Now, accreditation is voluntary.

The issue comes up after a series of fatal crashes involved Kansas-based Eagle Med. The company had just received its three-year accreditation shortly before a Feb. 22 helicopter crash outside an Oklahoma City nursing home. The crash killed pilot Mark Montgomery and flight nurse Chris Denning. Paramedic Billy Wynne was critically injured.

The newspaper reported that Eagle Med’s accreditation is currently on hold after another fatal crash in June killed a patient and injured three others in Talihina. Another Eagle Med helicopter crashed into a field near Kingfisher in July 2010, killing three people.

The company said in June that it was “devastated” by the Talihina crash and that it’s participating in a voluntary safety program with the Federal Aviation Administration.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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