Medical helicopter makes emergency landing near Lawton hospital early Thursday
LAWTON — A medical helicopter returning from the company's first Oklahoma patient flight made an emergency landing near a Comanche County hospital's parking lot before dawn Thursday.
The helicopter landed about 6 a.m. near Comanche County Memorial Hospital, 3401 W Gore Blvd.
The pilot was returning to base in Lawton after flying a patient to Oklahoma City from Tulsa, hospital spokeswoman Lori Cummings said.
The pilot and medical crew suffered minor injuries. No patients were aboard the helicopter.
"They literally walked away from that aircraft, and the emergency room got them in there, and they were, in fact, fine," said Andy Arthurs, vice president of Survival Flight, the contractor operating the helicopter.
Members of the four-person crew were treated and released Thursday. Their names were not released.
Cummings described the pilot's actions as “miraculous,” as he was able to avoid power lines, vehicles and buildings while bringing the chopper down on its skids.
It could have been a much different story if the incident had happened just a few hours later, as it would have been “almost impossible to avoid cars if it was later in the day,” Cummings said.
Survival Flight had just received its license to fly in Oklahoma on Monday, Cummings said.
Gore Boulevard was closed Thursday until investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration arrived, Lawton Assistant City Manager Jim Russell said.
“The FAA will determine whether it's an accident or a hard landing, so I've always just called it an incident,” Arthurs said.
It was the first such incident in the company's 10-year history, he said.
“It was truly one of those deals where we couldn't even begin to speculate. Everything was fine, until it wasn't,” Arthurs said.
The pilot is an Army combat veteran with 20 years of flying experience. Two medics and a nurse also were aboard the helicopter, Arthurs said.
The Lawton hospital is the company's first Oklahoma base, but the helicopter had been used before in the company's operations in other states, Arthurs said.
“This community has rallied around us today like I have never seen. They've taken care of my folks. It's an amazing show of support, and they've been wonderful,” Arthurs said. “If you're in this business, and you're going to have a bad day, this is a good way to have it.”
Another air ambulance company, EagleMed, had a spate of fatal, fiery Oklahoma crashes in recent years.
One of their helicopters crashed in June 2013 near the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center in Talihina. A patient died in the crash, and three crew members were injured.
A pilot and flight nurse were killed and a paramedic hurt when a helicopter crashed in February 2013 near St. Anne Retirement Center in Oklahoma City.
Another EagleMed helicopter crashed in 2010 in a pasture near Kingfisher. That crash killed two crew members and severely injured a third.
Contributing: Robert Medley, Staff Writer
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma... Read more ›