Patient, Wife Reported Smelling Alcohol On His Breath
An air ambulance pilot was arrested Thursday in Lexington, KY
before a flight to transport a quadriplegic man and his wife from
Blue Grass Airport to St. Louis.
The pilot, Stephen Ray Lynn, 51, was charged with violating a
state law on alcohol use by pilots. He told authorities he worked
for James Flying Service, based in St. Louis.
Blue Grass Airport police arrested Lynn after passenger Polly
DeWitt reported smelling alcohol on his breath just before he was
to fly DeWitt and husband, Kevin, to a spinal cord treatment center
in St. Louis.
In a breathalyzer test administered by authorities, Lynn blew
0.007 blood-alcohol level before he was brought into the Fayette
County Detention Center, said Capt. Darin Kelly, a jail
The Kentucky state statute states it is illegal to operate or
attempt to operate a civil aircraft if a person has consumed
alcohol in the previous eight hours; is under the influence of
alcohol; is using any substance that affects faculties in any way
contrary to safety; or has a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or
Lynn told an airport public safety officer that he had had two,
maybe four, drinks before 11 PM Wednesday evening. Authorities were
called to the scene just before 0900 Thursday, and Lynn was
arrested at 0940, according to a police report.
Officers reported Lynn was unsteady on his feet, more notably so
when walking, and his eyes were bloodshot.
The events precipitating the arrest started once Kevin DeWitt
already had been loaded onto the plane.
Kevin DeWitt, an Iraq combat veteran paralyzed in May in a
swimming pool accident, was at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation
Hospital, but the Department of Veterans Affairs wanted him sent to
the St. Louis treatment center, which treats veterans, Polly DeWitt
Mrs. DeWitt said her husband was the first to notice the pilots
behavior and smell. "He said, 'Lean down and give me a hug,'" her
husband told her. When she did, she said, "he said, 'Get me off
She reported the air ambulance had no medical supplies on board
and a woman who she thought was a nurse was sitting nervously,
smoking a cigarette, inside the plane when she and her husband
A ground ambulance took Kevin DeWitt to the Veterans Affairs
Medical Center. Later he was moved back to Cardinal Hill.
Lynn was released from jail on a $3,000 full cash bond Thursday
afternoon. He pleaded not guilty Friday in Fayette District Court
and is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on July 9. Lynn is a
resident of Mena, AR, where his employer, James Flying Service also
According to state law, a person convicted of a first offense of
this nature in Kentucky faces up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine
of $200 to $500, Assistant Fayette County Attorney Lee Turpin
Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation
Administration southern region, said the agency is conducting its
own investigation into the matter.
FAA regulations are similar to state laws pertaining to alcohol
or drug use by an aircraft crew member.
Penalties from the FAA range from a warning letter, or letter of
correction, to a fine, to suspension or revocation of a pilot's
license, she said.
"We have to do a thorough investigation. We have to have proof,"
she said. "Everyone's entitled to due process."
The VA Medical Center arranged for another air ambulance flight
for Kevin DeWitt later in the day, but his wife who is also a
nurse, said, "He wasn't medically stable to fly at this point." He
had pneumonia and a fever, she said.
Lynn’s employer, James Flying Service, also operating as
Federal Air Ambulance, has been in business for 29 years.
"We may have used this particular company once in the past, and
we do not plan to use them in the future," VA Medical Center
spokeswoman Desti Stimes said.