It is now being reported by JacksonSun.com that another medical helicopter company turned down what appears to be the same flight that led to this morning’s crash. Here are excerpts from that article by Nicholas Beadle:
Julie Heavrin of Air Evac Lifeteam, a Springfield, Mo.-based medical transport company, said the company was offered a flight from Decatur County General Hospital in Parsons to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital shortly after 4 a.m. She said it was the only flight to Jackson the company was offered since 12 a.m., but she could not definitively confirm it was the same flight that led to a crash shortly after 6 a.m. that killed three Hospital Wing crew members.
A state emergency management official, however, told The Associated Press this morning that the flight that led to the crash was from Parsons to Jackson. An official with the National Weather Service in Memphis also told AP that his agency is submitting a report that says weather could have played a role in the crash.
Heavrin said Air Evac’s weather flight policy is stricter than that prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration, but that company officials do not want to disclose their policy because they think doing so would be inappropriate in light of the crash.
The weather service’s nearest observation station to Brownsville is in Jackson, where this morning’s storm front likely would have arrived 15 to 20 minutes after passing through Brownsville. The observation station reported a thunderstorm with heavy rain between 5 and 6 a.m., with wind gusts probably topping out at little more than 20 mph.
A medical helicopter crashed this morning near Brownsville, and three people appear to be dead, Haywood County Sheriff Melvin Bond said. Three crew members were on board, but no patients, according to the medical transport company to which the aircraft belonged.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. Factory workers about three miles from crash site reported to the Sheriff’s Office that they saw a lightning strike in the direction of the crash and then saw an orange fireball, Bond said.
Dispatchers who had been in communication with the helicopter crew lost contact with them a little before 6 a.m. and knew something was wrong, Bond said. The dispatchers used GPS tracking on the helicopter to locate the crash site.
Authorities first received reports at 6:20 a.m. about the crash, which happened about 100 yards off Springfield School Road, a gravel road about a half-mile long that is 10 minutes or about four miles east of downtown Brownsville. Close to a dozen emergency vehicles have blocked off the road at its intersection with Springfield Road, and, from the roadblock, no homes appear to be near the crash site. The fire department and ambulances were the first on the scene, followed by the Sheriff’s Office.
The wreckage appears to be contained to an area about 30 to 40 feet in diameter in a field where winter wheat is planted at the bottom of a hollow.
A company official confirmed the helicopter was with Hospital Wing, a nonprofit medical transport company that operates in West Tennessee and portions of surrounding states within 150 miles of Memphis. The company has a base in Brownsville, where the helicopter was returning this morning after transporting a patient to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.
Officers at the crash site said more information will likely be released after Federal Aviation Administration officials arrive after 9:30 a.m.