The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 9, 2013

NTSB: EagleMed pilot pretending to hunt coyotes before fatal crash

KINGFISHER, Okla. — — The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed three years ago near Kingfisher was pretending to hunt coyotes when his aircraft struck a tree and plummeted to the ground, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The helicopter, operated by Wichita-Kan.-based EagleMed LLC, was traveling from Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City to a hospital about 90 miles away in Okeene when it crashed into a field at 7:25 p.m. July 22, 2010. The crash killed pilot Al Harrison, 56, of Edmond, and flight nurse Ryan Duke, 35, of Oklahoma City, and seriously injured paramedic flight nurse Michael Eccard, of Edmond. No patients were on board.

The report released Wednesday found that during the flight, Eccard noticed the helicopter’s left door had come unlatched and was slightly ajar. After securing it, Eccard sat back down and was getting his seat belt when a conversation began about another pilot flying on a coyote hunt.

The report states Eccard said Harrison made a statement similar to “like this. (with some laughter)” and tilted the aircraft’s nose down. He pulled back up and the helicopter struck a tree and crashed to the ground. Eccard was thrown through the windscreen from the wreckage and crawled away, the report states. He called 911 from his cell phone.

The helicopter caught fire after the crash and the blaze “consumed a majority of the fuselage,” according to the report. Downed tree limbs — with marks consistent to rotor strikes — were found in a tree line 690 feet east of the wreckage. Ground scars, consistent with the helicopters skids digging into the ground, began 115 feet east of the wreckage, the report states.

“An eyewitness spotted the helicopter descending in an abnormal fashion,” National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jason Aguilera told reporters after the accident.

Kingfisher Mayor Jack Stuteville said he arrived at the scene not long after the crash after a farmer told him he saw the helicopter spinning and then crash into the remote field.

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

The NTSB report noted Harrison was being treated for several medical conditions and had been prescribed multiple medications since at least 2007, when he told his personal physician he had bronchitis, hypertension and sleep apnea. The NTSB report states the pilot was never treated for his sleep apnea and had not reported any of his medical conditions and prescription medications to Federal Aviation Administration.

The report does not pinpoint the specific cause of the crash. A separate probable cause report will be released later by the NTSB.

A call to EagleMed for comment was not returned Thursday.


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