Medical helicopter crashes in Van Buren Co.

    7:50 PM, Aug 31, 2010   |    comments
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    Video: Medical helicopter crashes in Van Buren Co.

    • Kenneth Meyer, Jr.
    • Gayla Gregory
    • Crews on scene of Air Evac crash in Van Buren Co.
    • Kenny Robertson

    Air Evac has identified the crew members who died in the crash as pilot Ken Robertson, flight paramedic Gayla Gregory, and flight nurse Kenneth Meyer, Jr. The crew was based in Vilonia and was dispatched to pick-up a patient.

    Air Evac, an independent medical helicopter company out of Missouri, has confirmed the helicopter belongs to them.

    "This is a tragic day for us here at Air Evac Lifeteam," said Air Evac Lifeteam President and CEO Seth Myers. "These were members of our family and we are devastated at this loss. Our focus at this time is on providing support for the family and friends of these crewmembers."

    "I turned to look and saw the light and then hear the crash. It was really loud," says Cathy Koone, who was on the front porch of her home in Walnut Grove just before 4 a.m. Tuesday morning.

    She heard the air ambulance as it came over the ridge and knew something was wrong.

    Koone says, "The engine sounded like they were cutting out real bad. So I watched and listened to hear where it was coming from. Then all of the sudden I heard stuff falling out of the sky and into the trees. And then I turned around and saw a blue light and then a crash."

    The Air Evac chopper took off from Vilonia en route to Alread, a seventy mile flight to save a life in need. But only minutes short of their destination, the chopper crashed killing all three crew members.

    Debris from the chopper is spread over several hundred yards, all falling between several homes in the area.

    Jason Lowder lives nearby, "The rotor blade is in my yard, about 100 feet from my house."

    Sheriff Scott Bradley says, "You can see where it's at, probably 50 or 60 yards away from a residence. It could have been a lot worse."

    Tuesday afternoon federal investigators from the NTSB arrived on the scene. There is concern about the rising number of air ambulance crashes.

    Investigators say it's too soon to know exactly what caused this crash.

    Air Evac Lifeteam, operated by Air Evac EMS, Inc., is the largest independently owned air medical provider in the United States. The company operates 93 bases in 14 states throughout the central United States. The Vilonia base has been in operation since February 2003.

    Today's THV has also learned that today is the two-year anniversary of another Air Evac crash in Burney, Indiana. Three crew members died in that crash after the main rotor flew off.

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