Life Flight Helicopter Crashes, Two Dead

Life Flight Helicopter Crashes, Two Dead

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A nurse was in critical but stable condition Saturday morning after a medical helicopter from LDS Hospital crashed Friday night, killing the pilot and a paramedic.

The Life Flight helicopter was en route to a car crash in Wendover about 9 p.m., when the crew decided to turn around because of the reduced visibility from thick fog, said Jess Gomez, LDS Hospital spokesman.

Saturday morning Gomez said he didn't know what caused the helicopter to crash. "It's still very early and our focus has been taking care of those families who lost loved ones last night," he said.

A man died in the Wendover car crash, and a woman was transported to LDS hospital, Gomez said.

The helicopter went down about 200 yards east of 5600 West near Interstate 80. The pilot was awaiting clearance to cross a Salt Lake International Airport runway when "something went wrong," said Salt Lake City Fire spokesman Scott Freitag.

Freitag said rescuers searched for a long time before finding the crash site because of the fog.

"You couldn't see a hundred feet," he said.

It was the first major accident in the nearly 25-year history of LDS' Life Flight, Gomez said.

University of Utah hospital spokeswoman Ann Brillinger said their emergency helicopter, AirMed, had also been called out to the Wendover emergency.

Gomez said the two helicopters turned around about the same time because of the fog. AirMed made it back safely.

National Transportation and Safety Board investigators from Virginia were on their way and Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on the scene, Freitag said.

The crash was in the same area where 59 vehicles collided Wednesday on a six-mile stretch of Interstate 80 during the morning commute. The crashes were blamed on fog and black ice. Eleven people were hospitalized, including two firefighters, as a result of that collision.

The area -- just south of Great Salt Lake -- is vulnerable to thick winter fog.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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