SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Life Flight pilot who was killed when his helicopter crashed early last year purposely flew into heavy fog where he became disoriented, according to the final report in the case.
The report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board is the final ruling on the cause of the Jan. 10, 1993 accident in which pilot Craig Bingham and paramedic Mario Guerrero died. Flight nurse Stein Rosqvist suffered severe injuries.
The three had lifted off from LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City to pick up a critically injured victim of a truck rollover on Interstate 80 near the Nevada state line.
According to the report, Bingham felt "pressure to complete the mission," and attempted to reach the accident scene despite three warnings that fog blocked his path. Minutes before, an AirMed pilot had aborted a similar mission because of poor visibility.
"I can give it a shot," said Bingham, according to a transcript of the dispatch call minutes before the helicopter's liftoff.
About 20 minutes after the helicopter took off, Bingham told the tower he was declaring an emergency, but crashed before air traffic controllers could respond.
The report said Bingham failed to take corrective action quickly enough and "continued flight into known adverse weather conditions." The safety board found nothing technically wrong with the helicopter.
Life Flight operations director Bill Butts described the report as "disconcerting."
"We hate the idea that it was put out in a document that the pilot was solely at fault in this," he said. "Because we have no idea what (Bingham) was seeing, what he was thinking and what he was doing just prior to the accident."
Pilots often experience "self-induced pressure" to go on risky calls, Butts said.
"It is difficult to train that out of them," he said.
Since the accident, Life Flight has increased its adverse weather training for pilots.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)