Two hospital workers and a pilot were killed when a medical helicopter crashed in Tennessee as the aircraft was headed to pick up an ailing child, officials said Tuesday.
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital President and CEO Meri Armour said the Hospital Wing helicopter was cleared for both weather and flight plans when it took off Tuesday morning headed to Bolivar (BAW’-luh-vuhr).
“This was a very experienced pilot and a very experienced crew and a great helicopter, so we’re all anxious to know what happened,” Armour said.
When the helicopter didn’t respond during a routine 10-minute check-in around 6:20 a.m., authorities began searching by air and ground. They found the burning wreckage in a wooded area of Somerville, about 45 miles east of Memphis.
Armour estimated that the aircraft was about a half hour into the flight when it went down.
Aerial footage of the crash site on WMC-TV showed smoke rising from a group of trees. Several emergency workers could be seen around a blackened patch of ground where it appeared that little remained of the Eurocopter AS350.
In a news release, the hospital identified those killed as 47-year-old pilot Charles Smith, 43-year-old nurse Carrie Barlow and 43-year-old respiratory therapist Denise Adams.
Barlow worked as a nurse in West Tennessee for 13 years. She lived in Halls with her husband, Keith, and is the mother to three children.
Adams has served as the hospital’s Pedi-Flite respiratory therapist for the past eight years. She lived in Arlington with her husband, Rodney, and is the mother to three children.
Smith began his career at Hospital Wing in 2012, the same year he retired from the aviation unit of the Memphis Police Department after 25 years of service. He lived with his wife, Chi, and their two sons in Eads.
The sick child was not on board the aircraft and was eventually taken by ground ambulance to Le Bonheur, Armour said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email that her agency and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
Another Hospital Wing helicopter crashed in West Tennessee in March 2010 when the pilot tried to outrun a storm. That crash killed the pilot and two nurses.