The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reports that the big flying MedEvac medgadgets might have a poor safety record:
It was the deadliest year in the history of the air ambulance business.
“This accident rate, everybody has started to question it,” said Dr. Bryan Bledsoe, an adjunct associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University. “It’s just alarming.”
The trend has continued this year. One person was injured in a Jan. 3 crash in Arizona. Three days later, a pilot was killed in Mississippi.
Four days later, two crew members were killed and one injured when a LifeEvac II helicopter crashed into the Potomac River as it returned in clear weather to its Stafford County base.
Little is known about exactly how bad the problem is or what is causing it. Though the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board say accidents are increasing, they don’t have any supporting data.
No federal government agency keeps statistics on medevac crash rates, although a national database is expected to be available sometime this year.
Until then, neither the FAA, which regulates the industry, nor the NTSB, which investigates crashes, can say whether more accidents are happening because more helicopters are flying–or whether a systemic, industry-wide problem exists.
Though the evidence is anecdotal, NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said crash investigators are seeing “too many accidents.”
The wrecks have drawn attention from the government, the industry and the media. An FAA task force began examining medevac safety last August, and is now considering possible regulatory changes and additional oversight.