Saturday, November 18, 2017

One year later: investigation continues into cause of medical flight crash

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II, N779MF, American Medflight Inc: Fatal accident occurred November 18, 2016 near Elko Regional Airport (KEKO), Nevada 
Tiffany Urresti, Flight Nurse

Flight paramedic Jake Shepherd

Patient Edward Clohesey

ELKO – In the year since an American Medflight plane crashed in the Barrick parking lot off Mountain City Highway and killed four people there is still no word from the National Transportation and Safety Board on how the accident occurred, but there has been scrutiny of Piper PA-31T planes by federal flight officials.

Within a nine-month period there were three fatal crashes of that make and model of plane — one in California on July 29, 2016; the one in Elko on Nov. 18, 2016; and one in Portugal on April 17, 2017. The accident in Portugal happened shortly after take-off, killing all on board and one person on the ground.

The Piper PA-31T was the subject of an urgent safety recommendation by the NTSB in January that asked the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an airworthiness directive to correct unsafe wiring found after the California crash, which also involved a medical transport plane.

In that recommendation, the NTSB referred to the preliminary report on the crash of Piper PA-31T that took off from Crescent City and went down near the Oregon border, killing four, including the pilot, patient, paramedic and flight nurse. Authorities said the pilot had reported smoke from the cockpit and decided to turn back.

The FAA issued the airworthiness directive Feb. 22, stating it was “to correct the unsafe conditions on these products” and “was prompted by a fatal accident where evidence of thermal damage in this area was found.”

“This condition, if not corrected, could lead to electrical arcing and a possible inflight fire in an area that is not accessible by the crew,” the FFA said.

Patient Edward Clohesey, pilot Yuji Irie, paramedic Jacob Shepherd and flight nurse Tiffany Urresti died Nov. 18 when their medical transport plane went down shortly after taking off from Elko Regional Airport.

A preliminary NTSB report filed Nov. 30, 2016 said a witness at the airport noticed that “[d]uring the initial climb … the airplane made an initial left turn about 30 degrees from the runway heading, then stopped climbing and made an abrupt left bank and descended out of his line of sight.”

The report noted that there were clear skies, a temperature of 33 degrees Fahrenheit and wind direction of 110 degrees at 7 knots.

“The crash is still undergoing investigation,” an NTSB spokesman said last week. On its website, the NTSB states “the cause may not be determined 12 to 18 months after the accident.”

After the accident, Capt. Irie was praised by Elko Police Lt. Rich Genseal for maneuvering the plane toward the parking lot and avoiding populated areas and businesses.

“The plane came down in a parking lot that’s probably only several hundred feet from the apartment complex, multiple dwellings,” Genseal said at the time.

City Manager Curtis Calder agreed that Irie’s actions prevented a greater tragedy that night.

“Although the City of Elko has not seen a final report from the NTSB, we believe the heroic actions of the pilot and crew members saved numerous lives on the ground,” Calder said this week.

He said the accident also highlighted the importance of emergency first responders and medical aviation services in the area.

“Emergency air medical transport services are not only an important part of our local healthcare system, but a critical aviation source,” Calder said. “As such our community was greatly impacted by last year’s American Medflight crash and the resulting loss of life.”

“We are grateful to our emergency first responders and federal officials who perform difficult work under adverse conditions,” he added.

Original article can be found here ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

American Medflight Inc:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA024
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, November 18, 2016 in Elko, NV
Aircraft: PIPER PA 31T, registration: N779MF
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On November 18, 2016, about 1920 Pacific standard time, a twin-engine, turbine powered, Piper PA-31T "Cheyenne II" airplane, N779MF, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of control during initial climb from the Elko Regional Airport, Elko, Nevada. The pilot, two medical crewmembers and one patient sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was being operated as an instrument flight rules (IFR) air transport medical flight by American Med Flight, Inc. under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an FAA instrument flight plan was filed but had not been activated for the intended flight to Salt Lake City, Utah.

During a telephone conversation with a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, a witness located at the Elko Airport, reported that the airplane departed runway 06. During the initial climb, he stated that the airplane made an initial left turn about 30 degrees from the runway heading, then stopped climbing and made an abrupt left bank and descended out of his line of sight. 

The airplane impacted into a parking lot about .5 miles from the departure end of the runway, and immediately burst into flames. Several secondary explosions happened after impact as a result of fire damage to medical compressed gas bottles and several vehicles that were consumed by the post impact fire. The airplane sustained extensive thermal damage from the postcrash fire. All major structural components of the airplane were located within the wreckage.

The wreckage was recovered to a secure location, and detailed examinations of the airframe and engines are pending.

The closest weather reporting facility is the Elko Regional Airport (EKO). At 1856, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at EKO reported wind 110 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clear skies; temperature 33 degrees F; dew point 19 degrees F; altimeter 30.11 inHg.

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