Thursday, January 15, 2009

NTSB releases report on crash of Flagstaff medical helicopters

The National Transportation Safety Board today released their Factual Report and other information about the mid-air collision on June 29, 2008 of the two medical helicopters in Flagstaff, Arizona. One of the ships carried as a patient firefighter Michael MacDonald of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots who was being evacuated from a fire in Grand Canyon National Park.

Wildfire Today initially covered the incident HERE, and later we provided more information about Mr. MacDonald HERE.

The Factual Report is not the final word from the NTSB on the accident nor does it provide any conclusions, analysis, or opinions. It only provides facts, as the name implies.

Having read through some of the dozens of files that were released about the accident, it appears that there are no earth-shaking revelations. As previously known, the two Bell 407 helicopters, operated by two different medical transport companies, Classic Lifeguard and Air Methods, collided shortly before they were to land at a hospital in Flagstaff. Everyone on board both ships was killed, including the two patients, medical staff, and the two pilots. The Air Methods ship burned after hitting the ground, starting a small vegetation fire, and the other did not.

The report states that both of the ships' dispatchers notified the hospital dispatcher that the ships were enroute along with their ETAs, but only one of the pilots communicated directly with the hospital by radio in the minutes before they were to land.

Wildfire Today learned after reading the NTSB reports that Tom Clausing, 42, formerly a Grand Canyon National Park employee, was the flight paramedic on the same helicopter as Hot Shot Michael MacDonald. Mr. Clausing worked for the park as a Paramedic/Ranger from 2000 to 2006 but at the time of the accident was an employee of the helicopter company, Classic Lifeguard, out of Page, Arizona. He was also a member of the U.S. Army Reserve as a Combat Medic Instructor. Through his own company he taught Wilderness First Responder and rescue courses.

HERE is an article in the Wenatchee World about Mr. Clausing, and a guest book for him can be found HERE. The Red Alder Ranch web site has some information about him written by someone familiar with him through his Wilderness First Responder courses.

Tom Clausing, Wenatchee World photo

Michael MacDonald, photo courtesy of MacDonald family

Classic Lifeguard wreckage

Air Methods wreckage

1 comment:

Mark Whitaker/Red Alder Ranch said...

I've been wondering when these reports were going to start coming out; thanks for linking them here. When the accident first happened, I avoided looking at any pictures or video. All these months later, it is still hard to look.

Missing Tom, and feeling for all of those families,
Mark Whitaker
Red Alder Ranch

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