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Jill Atwood Reporting...University of Utah's AirMed medical helicopter service will take over for Life Flight, for the time being. And the AirMed crew says they’re putting jitters aside because they still have a job to do.
AirMed has brought in an extra chopper and an extra pilot. They will also add another shift. They expect their daily runs to at least double.
Despite three fatal crashes involving a medical helicopter in five years -- two within the last six months -- this crew getting ready to board AirMed isn't worried. They call what's happened to Life Flight a fluke -- like lightening striking twice in the same place, and they're here to help, however many runs it takes.
Robert Wilkey/Pilot, AirMed: "I HAVE NO QUALMS ABOUT WHAT WE DO. I KNOW OUR MECHANICS ARE AS ONE PERSON SAID, ‘LEGENDARY’ AND I KNOW THEY DO THE BEST JOB THAT CAN BE DONE."
For AirMed crews there is no time to ponder “what if.” Whether it's a search and rescue call like the one just prior to Saturday's crash, or a serious car accident, they'd rather fly than not fly.
Ken Matthews/Chief Flight Nurse, AirMed: "WE'D MUCH RATHER LAUNCH OUT AND GO TO HELP AND THEN FIND OUT HEY YOU KNOW WHAT ONCE WE EXTRICATED IT WASN'T THAT BAD AND WE REALLY DONT NEED YOU WE'LL FLY BACK THERE'S NO PROBLEM WE HAVE NO ISSUES WITH THAT."
Bottom line: minutes can mean lives in this business, and you can't save lives sitting on a helipad.
"ONE PERSON SAID I HEARD IN THE NEWS BEFORE … THAT THEY TAKE THEIR LIVES IN OUR HANDS. WE DON'T TAKE OUR LIVES IN OUR HANDS. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. IT'S OUR PROFESSION AND WE WOULDN'T DO IT IF WE THOUGHT IT WAS RISKY."
Eyewitness News also today tried to get some perspective on the recent crashes.
We spoke by telephone to the Chairman of the National Safety Committee of the Association for Air Medical Services who told us what has happened to Life Flight is, quote, "very odd and unheard of. Both Salt Lake Operations are two of the most diligent and well run programs that I have had the pleasure to work with."
He went on to say that all the aircraft are good aircraft and well maintained and this is just a terrible run of bad luck.