Helicopter Crash Victims Remembered

By: Meredith Stancik Email
By: Meredith Stancik Email

Family and friends are remembering the four people killed Sunday in a medical helicopter crash in Huntsville.

PHI hosted a private grief debriefing Monday at Coulter Airfield for co-workers and relatives of the three crew members killed in the crash.

Air Med 12 out of Bryan was flying a patient from Huntsville to Houston when it crashed on a ranch in Sam Houston National Forest.

All four people aboard were killed in Sunday's crash, including patient David Disman.

The Walker County Sheriff's Department identifies the other dead as flight nurse
Jana Bishop, pilot Wayne Kirby and flight paramedic Stephanie Waters.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of crashes involving medical service helicopters has spiked in recent years.

At least 64 people died between 2000 and 2005 in at least 86 air ambulance crashes.

Those crashes represent more than 10 percent of the United States air ambulance helicopter fleet.

What's alarming is that USA Today reported in 2005 that if commercial airlines lost the same proportion of passenger jets as air ambulance companies lost helicopters, 90 airliners would crash each year.

PHI has suspended its Bryan operation, while the investigation into the crash is on-going. Raising the question, if a critical situation were to arise and an air ambulance was needed, who would come to the rescue?

News Three asked Brazos County 911 that question, and officials say PHI would first send a helicopter from a different location.

911 officials say PHI has helicopters available in Richmond, Killeen and Georgetown.

If those services were unavailable, Brazos County has access to other air-medic operations.

Those companies have air ambulances on stand-by in Tomball, Missouri City, Pearland, Temple, Georgetown, Killeen,
Austin, San Antonio, La Grange, Rockdale, Waco and Conroe.

Officials say even though other services could be used, the response time would be much longer than if the helicopter was stationed in our area.

No word on when PHI will resume operations in Bryan.

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