ANDALUSIA, Ala (WDHN) — Over a year after an Alabama medical helicopter crashed into a field and injured three people, the National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the cause.
On July 29, 2022, a medical helicopter was launched from Evergreen, Alabama, destined for a hospital in Andalusia to transport a patient to another hospital, but approximately one mile away from the hospital’s helipad, the helicopter crashed in a field.
The crash injured the pilot, a flight paramedic, and a nurse.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the crash occurred after the pilot lost consciousness, and a later toxicology report revealed the pilot may have used cocaine and been drinking, causing him to be impaired.
The benzoylecgonine detected in the pilot’s urine indicated that he had used cocaine. The cocaethylene in his urine indicated that both cocaine and ethanol had been in his system at the same time, with more than a small amount of cocaine likely used. At the time of the accident, the pilot likely was experiencing some impairing effects from alcohol use and may also have been experiencing impairing effects related to his use of cocaine. However, the event that precipitated the loss of helicopter control was the pilot’s acute incapacitation by a syncopal (loss of consciousness) episode, the precise medical cause of which is unknown.National Transportation Safety Board Final Report
NTSB investigators also claim the pilot had a history of driving infractions, being convicted for a DUI in 2012 and an arrest for another DUI in May 2022, just two months before the crash.
The final report from the NTSB claims that right before the crash, the flight nurse had noticed the helicopter descending early and told the pilot the helicopter was too low, to which the pilot replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and once the helicopter began to pitch down, the nurse made a Mayday call and told the pilot to “pull up” three times. The helicopter then nosed up and crashed into several trees and powerlines before crash landing in the field.
Witnesses in the field near the accident site stated that the helicopter flew overhead about 300 ft above ground level, then nosed up 90° or more before turning left and impacting trees, powerlines, and the ground.National Transportation Safety Board Final Report
According to the NTSB, the pilot said in a post-crash interview that he felt sweaty and clammy and remembered someone telling him to pull up three times but did not remember the crash itself. The next thing he remembered was receiving medical treatment after the incident.