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Mon, May 12, 2008

Med Flight Helicopter Down In Wisconsin: Three Lost

Crash Occurred Shortly After Patient Drop Off

A University of Wisconsin Hospital Med Flight crew were tragically killed Saturday evening when their helicopter crashed in LaCrosse, WI shortly after takeoff.

The crew was sent to LaCrosse to drop off a patient picked up in Prairie du Chien. After refueling at LaCrosse, the helicopter departed for Madison, WI. At 2230 local, the helicopter disappeared after air traffic control lost contact with it, said hospital officials Sunday.

The crash occurred about three miles from the La Crosse airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The wreckage was found at 0825 local time on Sunday, and was spread over a quarter mile of hilly terrain.

Lost in the crash were surgeon Dr. Darren Bean, nurse Mark Coyne and pilot Steve Lipperer. All three lived in Madison. Their ages were not immediately available.

The pilot was flying visually, not using instruments, at the time of the crash, said Med Flight director Mark Hanson. There were no concerns about the weather before the crew took off, though rain and deteriorating conditions into the night caused the search to be conducted on the ground only.

The helicopter, a new American Eurocopter EC130, was on lease since August from Denver-based Air Methods.

There were no reported mechanical problems with this particular aircraft or its model, said Air Methods spokesman Mike Allen to the Chicago Tribune. There are more than 600 helicopters of that model in operation, he said.

The university hospital system has had an air flight program since 1985. There are 22 nurses and 10 doctors who work for the air flight system. On average there are about three or four flights a day, Hanson said. The average distance flown to pick up a patient is about 55 miles, he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation, with assistance from the FAA, but it may take up to a year or more to complete.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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