I blogged about the father of one camper in Texas who got hit with a bill for $16,000 after his daughter slipped in the shower and was airlifted to a children's hospital with little more than a bump and a scare.
When dad asked the camp why he wasn't called or consulted before the decision was made to bundle his little girl into the most dangerous kind of commercial air transport available, he was told he'd already signed a waiver allowing the camp to call a chopper if it deemed fit.
Now comes news that San Marcos Baptist Academy a private boarding school south of Dallas has signed "an athletic membership contract with Air Evac Lifeteam" according to the community newspaper. (You can see the press announcement here.) I don't think they're the only school doing this but I've got to wonder, "what can they be thinking?"
I sincerely hope that the athletes at San Marcos have no need of any kind of medical transport. But if past is prologue, having that chopper on standby is one hair-trigger decision away from having it dispatched to move an injured athlete. Undoubtedly, this membership contract is going to result in helicopter transports that are risky and unnecessary. How risky? You be the judge. Below is a list of accidents involving Air Evac Lifeteam helicopters over the past twelve years. I've provided a few details on the most recent accidents. But you can read the details on any of them by clicking through to the NTSB reports.
Six weeks ago, at four in the morning, an Air Evac helicopter en route to pick up a patient crashed in Arkansas, killing the pilot and the two member medical crew. CEN10FA509.
On Christmas day 2009, another Air Evac helicopter lost engine power shortly after takeoff from a hospital helipad in Decatur, Texas. The pilot and medic were seriously injured. CEN10LA078
Seven months earlier an Air Evac helicopter made an emergency landing at 1:00 a.m. in Vick, Texas. An investigation determined an essential piece of the horizontal stabilizer was missing. CEN09IA254 There was a patient on board the flight, but thankfully there were no injuries.
August 31, 2008 in Greensburg, IN - Three killed CHI08FA269
December 30, 2007 in Cherokee, AL - Three killed NYC08FA071
February 21, 2005 in Gentry, AK - One killed three injured DFW05FA073
November 9, 2004 Sapulpa, OK DFW05LA019
April 20, 2004 Huntingburg, IN - One killed three injured CHI04FA107
November 28, 2003 FTW04CA030
September 20, 2003 Shoals, AL CHI03LA319
January 31, 2003 West Plains, MO CHI03LA062
November 8, 2002 Albany, KY IAD03LA015
June 9, 2002 Dover, AK FTW02LA176
January 22, 2001 Quincy, IL One killed CHI01LA070
May 24, 1998 Springdale, AK FTW98FA239
When Patrick Veillette and I were assembling our Comprehensive Air Medical Services database we found that the eight hours between ten p.m. and six a.m. are the most dangerous hours to fly by helicopter medivac. Nearly half of all the EMS helicopter crashes take place during this time. Further, nighttime accidents are more likely to be fatal. Air ambulance accidents that occurred at night were almost four times more likely to result in fatalities than those occurring during the day.
But day or night, air ambulances have proven to be a tool best used judiciously. Unfortunately, the air ambulance industry shows no desire to slow its rapid growth so that in places like Texas, helicopter companies are literally falling all over each other to carry the injured and the nearly-so by air.
Enough may be enough. The optimist in me believes that when schools and summer camps realize they deal they have made with air transport companies could result in an athlete or camper joining the grim accident statistics, they will wise up and close the door to the opportunistic sales people buzzing to get in.