West TN medical flight crash reminds of workers' daily risk - WSMV Channel 4

West TN medical flight crash reminds of workers' daily risk

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The medical community in Middle Tennessee is mourning the colleagues and friends killed Tuesday in a medical helicopter crash near Somerville, TN.

Hospital Wing pilot Charles Smith, Pedi-Flight nurse Carrie Barlow and Pedi-Flite respiratory therapist Denise Adams were on their way to pick up a patient from a hospital in Bolivar when the helicopter went down.

"I've been flying for 20 years, and it's always difficult when we lose fellow crew members, so our prayers go out to them and their families," said Vanderbilt Life Flight nurse Tim Hurst.

The teams that treat patients while they're being flown to the hospital are a small community.

"We all recognize that there is risk when you're in transport," said Lis Henley, interim program director for Vanderbilt Life Flight.

Life Flight crew members go through a lot of training before they ever get on board.

"On a day like today, the pilots would look at the weather. If the weather was below minimums, the pilots would just say, 'No,'" Henley said.

Medical flight teams make those judgement calls every day, and Life Flight crews are constantly training for a potential air emergency.

Each crew member is required to have a survival kit on board during each patient transport.

"It goes on the aircraft with me every time I go," Hurst said.

And crews are taught how to survive on few resources.

"In the event you land in a field, you may be injured, so we carry all these aids to help us - if I've got a broken arm or leg, something like that," Hurst said.

Eventually, this team will use the information learned from the West Tennessee crash to prevent future tragedies.

"It impacts us and helps us make our safety changes," Henley said.

The helicopter that crashed Tuesday was working with Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. The hospital says it launches about 400 flights a year to bring critically sick or injured children to the hospital.

Those helicopters pick up patients within 130 miles of Memphis.

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