- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A medical helicopter crashed yesterday afternoon on its way to Washington Hospital Center with four persons on board, a Federal Aviation Administration official said.

On board were the pilot, a flight nurse, a flight paramedic and a patient being transported from Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

The three crew members were in serious but stable condition last night at Washington Hospital Center. The patient, who was in critical condition before the crash, underwent surgery at the hospital last night, said Dr. Janis Orlowski, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

It was not immediately known what caused the crash less than a mile from the hospital. The chopper went down in a hilly area of a golf course at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the 3700 block of North Capitol Street Northwest.

One witness said he saw the helicopter flying low and heard it hit a tree about 500 yards from the clubhouse.

“It was lumbering,” said Billy Bartlett, who works at the golf course. “You knew something wasn’t right.”

Mr. Bartlett said the helicopter went down to the right of the fairway on the eighth hole.

There were golfers on the course at the time. Everyone was sent away, and the course was closed.

No one on the ground was injured, and there was no fire, Dr. Orlowski said.

The helicopter left Greater Southeast at 4:39 p.m. and issued a mayday five minutes later, she said.

The pilot, one of the most experienced in the country, Dr. Orlowski said, suffered fractures in the crash and was in stable condition. He is employed by C.J. Systems Aviation Group and has flown for more than 20 years.

The flight nurse, who has worked for Washington Hospital Center since 1996, suffered fractures and soft-tissue damage. A paramedic, who was new at Washington Hospital Center, suffered broken ribs, she said.

All three crew members were alert and able to talk to doctors when they arrived at the hospital.

The patient, described by Dr. Orlowski as a middle-aged man, was critically ill before the crash with low and unstable blood pressure. He immediately was taken into surgery when he arrived at the hospital, she said.

Dr. Orlowski, who also is a senior vice president of the hospital, said the hospital has transported about 40,000 patients since it started the helicopter service in 1983 and that yesterday’s crash was a first.

“We are extremely concerned about this,” she said. “This is our family … these are wonderful individuals. We are just thankful their injuries are not more serious.”

Three of the four families have been notified of the crash, she said.

On Jan. 10, 2005, a helicopter owned by a Colorado company that had left Washington Hospital Center crashed in the Potomac River near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, killing two of its three crew members.

That helicopter, operated by LifeNet/Air Methods Corp., was returning to its base in Stafford, Va., when it went down.

• Staff writer Michael Hunsberger contributed to this report.

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