In a tragic incident that unfolded on Monday morning, an investigation is underway by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the crash of a 1999 Airbus Helicopter EC135T1 in Pompano Beach, Florida. The accident claimed the lives of a flight paramedic and an innocent bystander on the ground while leaving two survivors onboard. The incident has raised questions about the safety of an aging helicopter fleet.
Dramatic Sequence of Events Leading to the Air Ambulance Crash
Registered as N109BC and operated by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Fire Rescue unit as “Air 85,” the twin-engine helicopter met its ill-fated end just three minutes after takeoff from Pompano Beach Airport. Tragically, it crashed near North Dixie Highway and Atlantic Boulevard, igniting a post-crash fire that destroyed parts of a triplex apartment building.
Futile Efforts, Mechanical Troubles, and Lost Lives
The helicopter, en route to pick up a patient in Fort Lauderdale, encountered mechanical difficulties almost immediately after takeoff. The pilot, Daron Roche, declared an emergency and attempted a return to the airport. However, disaster struck as the helicopter’s tail boom-folded, causing it to spiral into the apartment building’s roof. Captain Terryson Jackson, a 19-year veteran, of the fire rescue department, lost his life in the accident.
The tragedy extended beyond the aircraft, claiming the life of 65-year-old Lurean Wheaton, who was asleep in her apartment when the helicopter crashed. Her sudden demise has left the community in mourning, and questions are being raised about the safety protocols in place.
Aging Air Ambulance Fleet?
Sheriff Gregory Tony revealed that concerns had been previously voiced about the aging fleet of helicopters. With the crashed helicopter dating back to 1999, there were ongoing efforts to maintain flight capabilities by piecemealing parts. An outside review in 2017 recommended selling the helicopter, but experts suggest that with proper maintenance, an aircraft’s age is not necessarily indicative of its safety.
Ongoing Investigations in the Air Ambulance Crash
As investigations into the crash continue, both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NTSB are working diligently to determine the cause of the accident. The incident serves as a somber reminder of the critical need for regular maintenance and safety evaluations, especially when dealing with aging aircraft.