Medical Helicopter Crashes in Downtown Wichita Falls

1 Dead, 3 Injured After Medical Helicopter Crash

Authorities said a medical helicopter crashed a few blocks from a North Texas hospital where it was headed, killing a patient it was transporting and seriously injuring the pilot and two medical personnel onboard.

The Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter crashed just before 2 a.m. Saturday in downtown Wichita Falls, near the Oklahoma border.

Wichita Falls Fire Chief Jon Reese told the Times Record News that the helicopter was taking patient Buddy Rhodes, 26, from Waurika, Okla., to United Regional Health Care in Wichita Falls when it crashed on a downtown street next to a parking lot and missed nearby structures. An Air Evac Lifeteam crew already awaiting the chopper's arrival reached the crash site first and found the aircraft on fire but intact.

"They made a heroic effort in saving their co-workers," Reese said.

Reese said the pilot is in serious but stable condition. Flight nurse Leslie Stewart and flight paramedic Erasmus Vandercolff remain in critical condition at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

"The crews are pretty tore up, families are devastated," Reese said.

Reese said Rhodes died at the scene. Authorities said they think he was shot Friday night at an Oklahoma apartment.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the helicopter crashed as it was landing, and investigators believe the aircraft appeared to hit a power line during its descent.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in this accident," Daniel Sweeza, vice president of operations for the O'Fallon, Missouri-based Air Evac Lifeteam, said in a statement. The aircraft involved was based out of Duncan, Oklahoma, he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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