LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Federal investigators are searching for answers in the crash of a medical helicopter outside Comanche County Memorial Hospital early Thursday morning.
The chopper was headed back to the hospital around 6 a.m. after taking a patient to Oklahoma City. As it approached the building, something went wrong, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. He avoided any buildings and power lines, but one of the rotors hit a car on Gore and a brick fence at a house. The pilot and the three-member crew on board escaped injury and walked away from the crash. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were called in to investigate.
A witness said this morning that she saw the aircraft flying low, and thought it might have been a plane. She said it was odd that there were no lights on, and then after it crashed, she realized it was a helicopter. But federal investigators and a representative of the helicopter company are not ready to offer any theories about how it happened.
"You never want to speculate. It's an aircraft and there's a lot of things that go on in-flight," Vice President of EMS Services for Survival Flight Andy Arthurs said. "You just don't know until they've gotten down the road with their investigation so I wouldn't hesitate to say I can't speculate because I truly just don't know."
Arthurs flew in from the company's base in Missouri this morning when he heard about the crash. The company has been in operation for seven years, and this is new territory.
"This has never happened before," Arthurs said. "This is Survival Flight's first incident. Since the company was formed, we have not had an incident at any of our bases across any of our states. And unfortunately, we had our first incident."
Arthurs said when he heard the news this morning, his first thought was of the crew.
"The first thing you need to do when something like this happens is take care of your folks," Arthurs said. "Take care of the patients, should there have been one on board which there was not. Our preparedness at Survival Flight has really been since the call came in early this morning was to take care of our people. The aircraft is just a piece of machinery. Fortunately, there was no one on the ground, and fortunately, our crew was not hurt."
Obviously, this helicopter will be out of commission for quite some time. Marketing Director for Comanche County Memorial Hospital Lori Cummins said she anticipates the new helicopter will be here sooner rather than later.
"Survival flight arrived here in Lawton and received their license on Monday of this week," Cummins said. "So this is their fourth day of service in our community. I anticipate that they will be replacing this aircraft as soon as they possibly can and they will be providing service as quickly as possible."
Arthurs said he is extremely grateful for how quickly first responders were on the scene this morning to prevent what was already a bad situation from getting worse.
Cummins said the accident did not alter their operations at the hospital at all today. She also said it will not impact the final preparations for their big Spirit of Survival running event on Sunday.