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NTSB: Medical helicopter pilot was texting before fatal crash

The families of four individuals who were killed in a Missouri medical helicopter crash in 2011 have finally received some answers regarding what caused the crash. Although the answers the families have received are not comforting, the results of the crash investigation will hopefully prevent similar helicopter accidents from occurring throughout the U.S.

The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the fatal accident could have been prevented. After investigating the crash and reviewing details about the accident, the NTSB agreed that the medical helicopter pilot had made several errors that resulted in the fatal accident.

The pilot was operating the helicopter on little sleep, he was distracted from texting back and forth with a female, and he failed to properly estimate how much fuel was left in the helicopter before attempting to transport a patient to a hospital.

The fatal helicopter crash occurred on August 26, 2011. Before taking off to transport a patient to a hospital, the helicopter pilot failed to perform preflight safety checks, the NTSB revealed. This prevented the pilot from noticing that the helicopter was low on fuel. When the pilot picked up the patient, he noticed that the helicopter needed fuel, but he failed to properly estimate how much fuel was left before taking off again. The pilot thought he could make it to a station to refuel, but the helicopter crashed just one mile away from the station.

The crash investigation also revealed that the pilot had been sending text messages throughout his workday even though his employer prohibited pilots from using personal electronic devices while operating helicopters. The NTSB revealed that a text message was sent by the pilot less than 20 minutes before the crash occurred. Everyone on the helicopter died, including a nurse, a paramedic and the patient.

Operating a helicopter is no simple task. Pilots must be attentive when operating helicopters and they must also be attentive to potential problems that may lead to a helicopter malfunctioning while in the air. When a helicopter pilot is distracted or overly tired, he or she may be at risk of making a serious pilot error that could lead to a fatal accident like the crash that occurred in 2011. When victims and families are harmed by this type of negligence, they will want to speak with an attorney to learn more about holding negligent parties fully accountable for their actions.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Texting contributed to fatal crash of medical helicopter, NTSB says," Michael Muskal, April 9, 2013

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