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Tragedy in Wisconsin

posted 5/12/2008 2:42:48 PM |
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[B]5/12/08

If it is of any comfort to the people of Wisconsin, a local tragedy has become a worldwide event.

News coverage of the UW helicopter crash in La Crosse soon after it took off at 10:30 pm Saturday night reflects national and worldwide concern about ambulance services -- from the volunteer ambulance groups in the smallest and poorest towns to the sophisticated air ambulance units throughout the world.

The Chicago Tribune picked up the story early Sunday morning, it then went to the AP's national wire and onto page one of the NY Times until the China earthquake bumped it this morning.

It has been carried by the International Herald Tribune, Xinhua -- China's news service, in India, in Canada, and all over the US.

The best coverage has been done by the Milwaukee Journal and its TV station TMJ4. They pursued the angle I would have ordered if I were running a news desk Sunday morning: air ambulance safety. They have done a stunning, definitive job in nothing flat, a feat worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

The punch line:

Ten percent of all air ambulances crash. Flying an air ambulance is almost as dangerous as flying a helicopter in combat.

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http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/18857389.html
out of 992 stories ar 1:40 pm on google news
SKIP TO GRAF 8

Mon, May 12, 2008
155 pm
Story Created: May 12, 2008

Story Updated: May 12, 2008
Medical Aviation, Combat: Deadliest Flights
John Mercure
Katie DeLong

Three men were killed after the medical flight helicopter they were traveling in crashed late Saturday night.

The helicopter belonged to UW Hospital. The medical team was on its way back to Madison after dropping off a patient in La Crosse.

The helicopter was a New American Eurocopter EC13. It was leased to the university’s hospital in August of last year. The hospital had an air flight program for 23 years.

Twenty-two nurses and 10 doctors work on the flights. They go on three or four flights a day.

Saturday’s crash is the first crash for the facility.

Air Methods, the company that flies the helicopters has about 300 of them in service. The last time one crashed was in 2006. The company says the two in Madison are checked daily, but they, along with 21 other choppers were grounded for a week in April after questions arose about paperwork. The university's other helicopter is grounded for the time being.

If a helicopter is needed, it'll be provided by other hospitals.
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TODAY’S TMJ4’s I-Team recently investigated the dangerous reality that is medical aviation, and the truth is that aside from combat, they are the deadliest flights of all.

The devastating truth is that the helicopter crash near La Crosse is far from an isolated incident. The I-Team’s six month investigation found major problems with medical flights. Problems that are costing lives.

Cleveland, Kansas, D.C., Seattle, Amarillo, Green Bay…

Between 2000 and 2005, ten percent of all air ambulances crashed. Experts say if commercial passenger jets crashed as often, 90 airliners would crash each year.

"I think it's extremely, unnecessarily dangerous,” Air Safety Investigator Christine Negroni said.

Christine Negroni is an air safety investigator

"It's an overwhelming problem. It's a little known problem, and it's very concerning to me that the attention has not been paid to this because the people who die, die doing something heroic. There's no question they do,” Negroni said.

So why are there so many crashes? There is very little federal regulation. Pilots don't have to follow FAA rules for pilot rest. Safety equipment isn't mandated, and no one tells them when it's just too dangerous to fly.

"You can't put people's lives at risk to send a helicopter a place where they're not going to be able to get in safely, and more importantly, get out safely,” Negroni said.

Justin Green is a decorated military helicopter pilot and one of the world's leading experts on medical aviation.

"It's as dangerous as you can get unless you're over in Iraq flying in military aviation,” Green said.

It will be quite some time until we know what caused Saturday night's tragic crash near La Crosse.

The I-Team’s investigation found that in most medical chopper crashes, pilot error and weather were to blame, often in combination.

The I-Team also recently talked with one family destroyed by a medical flight crash right here in Milwaukee.

Emergency medical flights save lives, but they also cost lives.

"It is an inappropriate cost. You don't kill people to save people. It's that simple,” Negroni said.

Grieving parents are in disbelief.

"We'll never be able to... We'll never be able to recover I don't think,” Sonny Lapensee said.

Sloppy government oversight, poor pilot training, non existent safety equipment.

Flying in many medical choppers is like flying in a time bomb.

"It's as dangerous as you can get unless you're over in Iraq flying in military aviation,” Green said.

"My heart is broke. I feel like part of me has died,” Lulu Lapensee said.

Ricky Lapensee had it all: family he adored, good job as a firefighter, and in his spare time he worked on the organ transplant team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

June 4, 2007, Ricky got the call that he needed to head to Milwaukee with a team of doctors and nurses to pick up a set of lungs.

His mom will never forget that morning.

"He said, 'I don't want to go,’” Lulu Lapensee said. “He said, ‘I’m afraid,’ and I don’t know why he said that.”

That afternoon Ricky’s Cessna jet slammed into Lake Michigan at 250 miles per hour.

"I walked out into the kitchen and he had just turned the TV on and they were talking about this plane that went down in Milwaukee and I said to him, 'that was Ricky’s plane,’” Lulu Lapensee said.

“My heart just sank down to here,” Sonny Lapensee said.

“We both died that day ourselves,” Lulu Lapensee said.

“EMS flight for the flight crew is a very dangerous job,” Green said.

Green is a decorated military helicopter pilot and one of the world's leading experts on medical aviation.

"When you have a pilot who is under the pressure of an emergency mission trying to bring organs on an emergency basis you have that human nature and that noble sense of mission to complete that mission and mistakes can be made,” Green said.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the Lapensee crash. Ricky Lapensee also flew many organ transplant missions in medical helicopters, the most dangerous flying, short of combat.

"Too often either companies are run badly or bad pilots are let in or missions are flown that shouldn't be flown,” Green said.

Every medical aviation operation claims that safety is number one. When Milwaukee Flight for Life makes that claim, the facts back it up.

Sinc

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Comments:

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rescueremedy

May 12 @ 4:19PM  
I missed that broadcast .... Thank you for sharing the info . I heard about the crash ....How sad .
1bunny629

May 12 @ 4:21PM  
My sister had a heart attack Saturday at 10:30 am and as soon as they got her to one hospital they put her in a helicopter to a hospital that is known for its heart specialists...hearing this news tramatized me, but knowing she was lucky not tocrash in the helicopters flight makes me feel even more lucky, she is well and had a stint put in...I am so releived...I will keep this story in my thoughts and pray for no more victims. M
l00kin4myprince

May 12 @ 11:13PM  
Today at the hospital they had a moment of silence for those lost.. They also has a monitor the says in loving memory with the victims names.

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Tragedy in Wisconsin