Flight paramedic Dave Repsher is fighting for his life.
The 45-year-old was one of three people aboard a Flight for Life medical helicopter that crashed and burst into flames on Friday afternoon only seconds after taking off from St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center in Frisco. The crash and subsequent fire killed 64-year-old pilot Patrick Mahany of Silverthorne, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after serving as a scout pilot during the Vietnam War. Flight nurse Matt Bowe, 32, was somehow able to escape the burning wreckage and suffered minor injuries.
According to the Denver Post, the Airbus (formerly Eurocopter) AS350 helicopter lifted off the ground at around 2:40 p.m. local time. Seconds later, it jerked sideways, then plummeted into the parking lot at St. Anthony’s where it hit a parked camper hitched to a pickup truck. The impact sparked a serious fire that engulfed the helicopter.
Mahany spent 27 years of his life as a Flight For Life pilot. Several friends eulogized the decorated pilot on Facebook, saying he will be remembered for all the lives he saved, both as a medical helicopter pilot and as a firefighting pilot. Repsher will undergo surgery Monday afternoon after a “stable night” on Sunday, according to CareBridge.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has a team investigating the crash. While the cause is unknown, some have speculated that the Colorado medical helicopter crash might have been less severe if the Airbus AS350 fuel tank hadn’t leaked, fueling the post-impact fire.
In 1994, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) updated helicopter safety standards, requiring fuel tank systems to survive a 50-foot drop without leakage. We will have to wait and see if the fuel tank played a role in turning what may well have been a survivable crash into a fatal crash.