Chopper Crashes, Kills Memphis Medical Crew Before Reaching Sick Child

Hospital Wing operates six helicopters and serves six states. Tuesday's crash happened during a transfer from a hospital in Bolivar to Memphis. Credit: Hospital Wing

Hospital Wing operates six helicopters and serves six states. Tuesday’s crash happened during a transfer from a hospital in Bolivar to Memphis. The patient was not yet on board. Credit: Hospital Wing

On an otherwise routine call to transport a patient to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, a medical helicopter went down Tuesday morning. All three people on board were killed.

All in their mid-40s, the pilot, nurse and therapist died while they were on the way to pick up a child in renal failure. They were headed 70 miles to the town of Bolivar but only made it about halfway before the helicopter went down.

“They have taken care of so many kids in their short lives, that I can’t tell you how incredibly difficult it is for the entire team,” Le Bonheur’s Dr. Jay Pershad told the media gathered at a hastily called press conference.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the cause.

There was rain in the area at the time. A similar West Tennessee crash in 2010 was determined to be the result of a pilot trying to outrun a storm.

In 2008, deaths from EMS helicopter crashes spiked, with 28 fatalities from seven different incidents.

Le Bonheur Releases Names

Hospital Wing is the name of the private flight company. Pedi-Flight is Le Bonheur’s pediatriatic and neonatal transport team, which moves 400 patients by chopper each year.

Killed were Hospital Wing pilot Charlie Smith, a 47-year-old pilot who retired from the aviation unit of the Memphis Police Department in 2012.

Pedi-Flite Nurse Carrie Barlow – a mother of three – was a 43-year-old nurse who began her career at Le Bonheur in January of 2012. She worked as a nurse in West Tennessee for 13 years.

Respiratory Therapist Denise Adams was also 43 and a mother of three. She joined the Pedi-Flite unit in 2005.

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