Board Cites Poor Weather in PHI Helicopter Crash

The report for an investigation into the deadly crash of Bryan-based PHI Air Med 12 has come out, blaming weather conditions for the accident.

It was last June that the medical helicopter crashed in the Sam Houston National Forest near Huntsville. Four people on board died: three crew members and a patient.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it was likely poor weather conditions that brought the helicopter down early on the morning of June 8.

What is bizarre about this whole situation, though, is that PHI's weather checks prior to the crash showed decent conditions, and according to the report, no official weather reporting station showed visibility problems.

There was one report of weather issues: a Houston-based Life Flight chopper that was originally scheduled to take the patient from Huntsville to Houston. It left the Bayou City just after 1 a.m., but encountered rapidly decreasing visibility as it came in.

The report details what some of those weather stations reported close to the time of the crash. The pilot of the Life Flight said that he flew into a large set of clouds or fog that suddenly and dramatically increased when he got to about 800 feet off the ground.

To read the full report, click on the links below this story.

Life Flight aborted, so at 1:20, PHI got the call to take that patient. In their discussions, PHI officials couldn't figure out what Life Flight had encountered because all reports showed good conditions.

Air Med 12 took the call, landed safely in Huntsville, took off with the patient at 2:46 a.m., and crashed two minutes later.

Pilot Charles Wayne Kirby, flight nurse Jana Bishop and flight paramedic Stephanie Waters were the crew aboard the chopper. The patient was David Disman.

According to the weather station at Huntsville's airport, just minutes before the accident, there was a ten-mile visibility in the area, with scattered clouds at about 1,200 feet and variable winds.

Among the changes PHI has made in the aftermath of the crash: they will now consult directly with any medical chopper crews if they have turned down a call due to weather. If that happens, PHI will also have stricter weather limits for its mission to decide whether to take that call.

PHI's Bryan operations were on hold in the aftermath of the crash. Bryan is just one of twelve hubs for the company. The closest to our area are in Conroe, Killeen and Georgetown.

Other companies also get called upon in the Brazos Valley for medical transports. It took a little more than two weeks after the crash for PHI Bryan to resume.

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