Airline, Health and Environment|

Helicopter Crash Kills Medical Team

A HelicopterOn Monday, a Mayo Clinic medical team in Jacksonville, Florida departed around 5:45am on a helicopter with a pilot, surgeon and technician. The group was on its way to retrieve a heart for a transplant, but all of them were killed when the helicopter crashed. Due to this, the transplant patient has been left waiting for another organ to become available.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says that the crash occurred about 12 miles northeast of Palatka, which is about 45 minutes south of Jacksonville. The helicopter ended up in a remote and densely forested area, according to Clay County Lieutenant Russ Burke. Another helicopter spotted it around 12pm. The site was hidden from the road by pine trees, and debris was strewn around.

According to FAA records, the helicopter was being operated by SK Jets. In a statement, the company said that they are focusing their efforts on attending the needs of their crew, their families and their passengers, as well as working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and local safety officials to investigate the cause and extent of the incident.

Kansas City aviation attorney Gary Robb, who specialises in helicopter safety, says that SK Jets is known to be a safe and careful operator. The small and lightweight aircraft has low speed capabilities and low weight. It’s mostly used by police departments or traffic reporters and not usually used for donor flights. He questioned why the team used a helicopter with low performance for a time sensitive mission.

Robb went onto note that the NTSB will search the crash site for clues as to what caused the incident and will also look into the experience of the pilot and other factors that could have impaired his performance – including environmental factors. He added that the helicopter uses an older engine that has simply failed in a number of cases.

Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Kathy Barbour said that the medical team was on its way to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville. E. Hoke Smith has been identified as the pilot, the heart surgeon was Dr. Juis Bonilla, and David Hines was named as the procurement technician. The clinic’s spokesman, Layne Smith, said that the heart they were picking up couldn’t be used in another transplant due to its viability expiring. The patient who was scheduled to receive it is now waiting for a new organ.

Mayo Clinic president and chief executive John Noseworthy said that they mourn the tragic incident and will remember the intense and selfless dedication the men brought to make a difference in patients’ lives. They recognise the commitment transplant teams make each day to help Mayo Clinic patients, as well as others. They send their thoughts and prayers to the men’s families.

 

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