Federal authorities are investigating the December 15, 2015, crash of a medevac helicopter east of Phoenix, Arizona. The aircraft, an Airbus AS350, impacted rugged terrain in the Superstition Mountains just after 8 p.m. Two crew members on board were killed and a third crew member survived.
The accident is the second fatal medevac crash in just one week and at least the fifth this year. On December 10, a Bell 407 transporting an ill passenger crashed in California, killing all four on board. On July 3, a pilot was killed and two flight nurses seriously injured when an AS350 crashed shortly in Colorado. On March 12, a pilot was killed and two crewmembers were seriously injured in an AS350 crashed in Oklahoma. And on March 6, a pilot was killed when the Airbus EC-130 he was flying impacted a Missouri hospital.
There are factual similarities among many of these accidents. Marginal weather conditions were often present and several occurred at night in areas of high terrain. Finally, several involved the same aircraft, the Airbus AS350.
Investigators will assess whether the accident aircraft were adequately equipped to operate in conditions of high terrain and low visibility and, if so, whether the flight equipment functioned properly. They will also look into the operators' safety training, culture, and practices.
Medevac helicopter crashes occur at an unacceptable frequency in the United States. Recognizing this, the NTSB has added decreasing such accidents to their "Most Wanted" safety improvements list.
Justin Green, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler, and a former military helicopter pilot, has written on the safety issues in the medevac industry. He has also litigated cases against medevac operators.
With significant overhead and a pay-per-flight fee structure, private medevac operators are incentivized to cut costs and complete flights at the price of safety. More accountability and oversight is necessary to improve the industry's dismal safety record.
Kreindler & Kreindler will be monitoring these investigations, including the most recent Arizona crash. The firm specializes in cases against aircraft manufacturers and operators and has successfully litigated helicopter accident cases in Arizona and across the United States.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding these accidents, please contact us.