Thursday, July 17
NEWKIRK, N.M. (AP) — A medical helicopter flying to pick up a patient crashed Thursday into the side of a New Mexico hilltop, bursting into flames and killing all three crew members on board, authorities said.
The helicopter was flying from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe to Tucumcari when it disappeared from radar at 2:48 a.m.
It went down near Newkirk along Interstate 40 about 135 miles east of Albuquerque and about 30 miles from Tucumcari.
Ranch workers found the wreckage on the rocky, northern side of a mesa after authorities asked them to look around the area.
"It crashed and burned," said ranch manager Phil Bidigan. "No survivors .... Everything burned except for the very end of the tail."
Hospital spokesman Arturo Delgado confirmed all three people on board were killed. Their identities were not immediately released, but he said the CareFirst crew was well-known at the hospital.
"These crew members were our colleagues, our friends and our neighbors," the hospital said in statement. "Our hearts, and our prayers, go out to the loved ones of these extraordinary individuals, who were committed to saving lives every single day."
The Federal Aviation Administration said the cause of the crash was unknown. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
Bullhead City, Arizona-based TriState CareFlight LLC owned and operated the helicopter, said company marketing director John Cole, who was traveling to the crash scene and could not immediately comment further.
Bidigan said a ranch cowboy told he was awakened by a sound but went back to sleep because he didn't know what it was.
"When he got up he could see the flames," Bidigan said.