UPDATED: Pilot dies after Flight for Life helicopter crashes in Frisco
The pilot of a Flight for Life helicopter did not survive a crash involving three other vehicles on Friday next to Frisco’s St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.
Two other people were inside the aircraft at the time of the crash. The pilot, 64-year-old Patrick Mahany, was declared dead at the scene at 3:34 p.m. He had been a pilot for Flight for Life since 1987, and received a bronze star and a purple heart for his service as a pilot in the Vietnam War.
A flight paramedic and flight nurse were transported to Denver “with significant, but I believe, survivable injuries,” said Jodie Taylor, trauma medical director with St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, at a press conference on Friday evening. One was transported to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, and the other was taken to University Hospital. Neither of their names were released at the conference.
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“We are deeply saddened that our pilot was fatally injured, and our hearts go out to the pilot’s family,” Taylor said. She added that he had died by the time crews pulled him from the aircraft.
The helicopter was not responding to a medical emergency when it took off. Shortly after, it crashed in a nearby parking lot, colliding with an RV, a pickup truck and a camper, sparking a large fire.
“The whole ship was fully engulfed in flames,” Lake Dillon Fire spokesman Steve Lipsher said. “The helicopter was just taking off. It made some kind of awkward move and it fell back to the earth.”
Lake Dillon Fire battalion chief Shawn Sawyer said the fire was difficult to extinguish due to fuel leaking from the helicopter. A hazmat team responded as the fuel mixed with runoff from the water hoses.
“They had a tough time knocking it down,” Sawyer said.
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The call came in around 1:40 p.m., and the fire was out within 15 minutes, with the combined aid of Lake Dillon Fire, Copper Mountain Fire and Red, White and Blue Fire.
Jason Bogner, of Omaha, was biking with his family nearby when they witnessed the crash. He said the helicopter appeared unsteady from the moment of takeoff.
“It immediately had issues. It was wobbly, unstable, and pitched one way. It became uncontrollable and crashed all within 20 seconds,” Bogner said. “The helicopter was sideways. It ran into an RV also, which was the reason the fire was so large.”
He said he saw three people exit the aircraft—one was able to exit unaided, while the other two were pulled from the helicopter. He said one was taken down to the bike path and carried by ambulance.
“One was much less injured than the other two. One had severe burns,” Bogner said.
Debris was scattered along the bike path below the hospital, with pieces of bent metal and shrapnel littered next to the path. Several waited outside of the hospital for news of friends who served with Flight for Life. Two stretchers were carried from the hospital, and a second Flight for Life may have transported patients to Denver.
“I’m an ex-nurse and I’ve never seen a hospital pull together that fast,” said Judy Day, who was waiting at the hospital for her brother who was being treated prior to the accident.
Taneil Ilano, spokeswoman with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board would conduct an investigation of the accident. “Our entire Summit County community is saddened today,” Ilano said. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.”
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The city of Craig in January settled a lawsuit alleging excessive force against two officers over a 2018 tasing incident, the second civil rights complaint of its type filed against police force members since July.