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Friday, December 26, 2014

UNMH crash requires further investigation

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Removal crews on Saturday morning work to remove a disabled PHI Air Medical helicopter, which crashed on the roof of the University of New Mexico Hospital Wednesday afternoon. The pilot suffered minor injuries, and the two passengers were not seriously hurt. No patients or staff of the hospital were injured during the incident.

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The PHI Air Medical helicopter that crashed on the roof of UNM Hospital last week has been removed, but authorities have not yet identified the cause of the crash.

Brad Deutser, a spokesperson for PHI Air Medical, said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have taken over the investigation about the cause of the incident. He said he thinks they are still early in the investigation.

“This is on their timetable, so it’s really hard to know when the findings will be released,” he said.

The NTSB and the FAA did not respond to the Daily Lobo’s calls by press time.

The PHI helicopter crashed into the roof of UNMH Wednesday during its attempt to take off after dropping off a patient. There were three people inside the helicopter. The pilot was treated for injuries at the hospital and has since been released. No one else was injured in the incident.

Deutser said this has been the first accident involving PHI in more than three years. He said PHI would try to learn from what happened at UNMH in order to prevent a similar accident in the future.

“We evaluate, all the time, ways that we can ensure that we’re the safest that we can be,” he said. “Every opportunity to learn and advance our protocols, we do.”

The pilot flying the helicopter had been with PHI for 10 years, Deutser. He said the nurse on board had been with the company for nine years, and the medic on board had worked with them for three years.

UNMH spokesman John Arnold said clinical services were uninterrupted during the removal of the helicopter. He said that as far as he knew, the FAA and the NTSB had been investigating, but they were no longer at the hospital.

Arnold said this is the first helicopter crash since UNMH got the helipad in 2007.

“Since that helipad has been there, we’ve never had an incident like this,” he said.

Deutser said the FAA and the NTSB had protocols for investigating incidents such as these.

“The NTSB and the FAA have very definite protocols of what they do and how they do it,” he said. “It’s their process and protocols, and so we just follow, but it’s extraordinarily thorough.”

Deutser said PHI will continue to work with UNMH after the incident.

“We have every expectation to continue to serve and to continue to help the people in the community,” he said. “It’s what we do.”