The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 23, 2010

UPDATE: Victims identified in helicopter crash

By Rochelle Hines
The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Federal investigators are headed to the site of an Eaglemed medical helicopter crash that killed the pilot and a nurse near Kingfisher.

Eaglemed LLC of Wichita, Kan., identified the victims as pilot Al Harrison and nurse Ryan Duke. Paramedic Michael Eccard was hospitalized in serious condition in Oklahoma City with injuries he suffered in the crash.

The helicopter was en route from Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City to the hospital in Okeene when it went down at about 7:45 p.m. four miles south and one and a half miles east of Kingfisher, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

The Oklahoma Climatological Survey’s Mesonet station near Kingfisher reports wind gusts of 30 to 35 miles per hour in the area at the time.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.

EagleMed spokeswoman Shelia Rupp-Haag said no patient was on board and the circumstances of the crash still were uncertain.

Kingfisher Mayor Jack Stuteville, who owns property near the crash site, was among the first on the scene. He said a man working on the land called him and told him he’d just seen a helicopter spin, then hit the ground.

“By the time I got there it was already burned to pieces. The bodies were charred beyond recognition. It was bad,” Stuteville said.

The lone survivor was about 50 yards from the wreckage, he said.

“I have yet to figure out how he got out — if he was thrown out or had enough adrenaline to get out on his own,” Stuteville said.

He described the area as secluded, with only few homes nearby. “The neighbors didn’t even know anything had happened until all the news helicopters started flying around,” he said.

Integris Baptist spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said the hospital contracts with EagleMed for its medical flight services.

“They are not our employees, but it is our pain anytime something like this happens,” Cayot said.

A woman answering the phone at Okeene Municipal Hospital said she didn’t have any information about the crash.

Investigators with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the crash site, Lunsford said.