Tulsa's Life Flight helicopters grounded after a piece falls off one, while in-flight

Friday, August 13th 2004, 11:59 am
By: News On 6

Aircraft parts came crashing out of the sky into a Tulsa neighborhood Friday morning. A couple of good-sized pieces of engine cover blew off a Life Flight helicopter on a routine maintenance flight.

There were no injuries, but as News on 6 reporter Rick Wells explains, there was a lot of extra excitement.

Life Flight helicopters make 150 air transports every month. They service communities within a 150-mile radius of Tulsa flying to both St Francis and St John.

Normally, residents of neighborhoods in Tulsa would just see the choppers flying over on the way to and from the hospital. Folks in a south Tulsa neighborhood got a little closer to Life Flight than normal. George Fowler: "I just came out to mow my yard and saw the fire truck in front of my neighbors house and thought he might have a problem. I got here and discovered something more exciting than that."

What caused the excitement was a couple of pieces of Life Flight helicopter that fell into Wayne Smalley's front yard. “I didn't hear a thing I was sitting in the house reading the paper." He saw all the activity out side and that's what got his attention there were lots of people walking around out front. There was a piece of helicopter in the yard and another still up in the tree. "The lady from St. Francis said the helicopter had been serviced and somebody didn't bolt the cowling down tight."

In a news release St Francis confirmed a piece of engine cover had come off during the flight, but couldn't confirm how. The damaged chopper flew on and landed safely at the hospital. Fowler: "Its a good thing they got it down, could have been a disaster." So a bit of good fortune on Friday the 13th.

Tulsa’s Life Flight has two German built air ambulances. Both the damaged chopper and the other one will be grounded until an investigation is complete and repairs are made.