NTSB Releases First Report On Fatal EagleMed Helicopter Crash Near Eufaula

Tuesday, April 7th 2015, 9:51 am
By: Richard Clark

The National Transportation Safety Board released its Preliminary Report on the crash of a medical helicopter that killed the pilot last month.

The EagleMed helicopter crashed on March 12, 2015 near Eufaula, killing the pilot, Matt Mathews. Nurse Kim Ramsey and paramedic Ryan Setzkorn survived.

According to the NTSB, the Eurocopter AS 350 B2 helicopter, operating as EagleMed 35, collided with trees and the ground at about 11:15 that night.

The helicopter had departed from St. Francis Hospital Heliport at about 10:48 p.m. and was headed for McAlester Regional Airport, according to the NTSB.

As the crew flew to St. Francis earlier in the night, the pilot mentioned to the medical crew that the clouds above their cruise altitude were lower than he expected. The NTSB says the pilot descended slightly and the helicopter landed at St. Francis without incident. According to the NTSB, while on the ground the pilot checked weather again and talked to the medical crew and they decided to make the return flight from St. Francis to McAlester.

3/13/2015: Related Story: One Dead, Two Injured In EagleMed Helicopter Crash Near Lake Eufaula

According to the NTSB, the helicopter was southbound at about 1,500 feet above sea level when the medical crew reported the helicopter had twice briefly flown through clouds. 

3/16/2015: Related Story: Wreckage Of Helicopter Removed From McIntosh County Crash Site

After a short discussion the pilot stated he was going to divert and began a left turn to return to Tulsa. Soon after beginning the left turn the helicopter hit trees and terrain at about 850 feet above sea level, according to the NTSB.

The impact broke the tail boom loose from the fuselage and the main wreckage came to rest on its right side. The NTSB says the helicopter's fuel tank remained intact. No fuel leaked out and there was no post-impact fire.

The two medical crew members crawled out of the wreckage and used a cell phone to report the crash and their location.

Read the NTSB's Preliminary Report on the crash.

Several agencies used the position report from the crew, data from the chopper's GPS position reporting system and signals from the locator transmitter to locate the wreckage. Emergency responders had to hike through the rugged terrain and arrived several hours later.

The NTSB says an automated weather report from the nearest reporting station, which was in Okmulgee, indicated visibility at the time of the crash was 10 miles with a cloud ceiling of 2,400 feet above the ground.

The reporting station at McAlester Regional Airport indicated the lowest cloud bases were between 900 and 2,100 feet above ground level at the time of the crash, according to the NTSB.

The Preliminary Report is the first of three reports on the crash the NTSB will release. It usually takes at least several months, sometimes even years, for the NTSB to release all three.