The crew of Southwest Med Evac a division of Omniflight Helicopters Inc., were killed when their helicopter crashed as it was preparing to land at McGregor Range in El Paso on Friday. The pilot, William Montgomery of Avondale, Ariz., and the two paramedics, John Sutter of Las Cruces and Anthony Archuleta of El Paso, were killed on impact.
The pilot and crew were participating in a simulated medical evacuation training exercise when the helicopter crashed without warning. The team had been training without incident the day before the helicopter crashed. Friday, the day of the helicopter accident, was the last day of the two day training exercise, Omniflight officials said.
No Patients On Board When Helicopter Crashed
The helicopter was not carrying patients at the time of the helicopter accident. “The cause of the accident is unknown at this time,” Anthony DiNota, president and chief operating officer of Omniflight, said in a statement that “there are many questions that need to be answered.” What has everyone scratching their head about this helicopter accident is that just moments before the helicopter crashed, Montgomery radioed to company operators that he was landing the aircraft and there were no problems.
Weather was clear that evening in El Paso just before 8 p.m. on Friday. The aircraft was fully equipped with night-vision goggles, satellite navigation, a radar altimeter and GPS, Omniflight officials said. Investigators for both the NTSB and the FAA arrived at the site of the accident and are determined to find out what happened after Montgomery’s last radio message that could have led to the medical helicopter crash. Lynn Lunsford, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot and the paramedics were flying a Eurocopter AS 350, which can easily carry up to a 6 passenger payload.
Medical Helicopter Crash Victim Vietnam Vet
They flew from the El Paso International Airport to McGregor Range. “We’re putting a team together to assess the wreckage,” Lunsford said. Southwest Med Evac is under contract with Fort Bliss to provide emergency medical services to the military base. Montgomery, the pilot, was 63 years old he served in Vietnam as an Army pilot and had only been with Omniflight for about six weeks. “He had a love of flying,” his wife Linda said. “He was employed with Omniflight to fly the helicopter to pick up any military personnel that were injured.”
Linda said his only responsibility was to fly with paramedics and participate in training exercises just like the one he took part in on Friday. Archuleta began his career as a firefighter, then switched to paramedic later in life. His sister Lori said it was by chance that her brother went on the exercise. “They were just doing a training exercise and they invited him and another paramedic to go on the flight,” Franklin said.
“He was excited because he doesn’t get to go on many flights.” Sutter’s family could not be reached for comment.
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