Air ambulance still grounded

Three medical flights missed since March 19 crash

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— Yampa Valley Air Ambulance has missed three medical flights, two of them for local patients, since a March 19 plane crash near Kremmling totaled the aircraft normally based at Bob Adams Field.

The patients involved in the recent transfers were flown by alternative air ambulance services.

No one was seriously injured in last month's crash and there were no patients on board at the time of the mishap. But the incident left the operators of the local air ambulance looking for a new aircraft.

Christine McKelvie, a spokeswoman for Yampa Valley Medical Center, said two patients at the local hospital have been flown out since March 19 on alternative air ambulances. A third flight that was passed up by YVAA would have transported a patient from Rawlins, Wyo., to Cheyenne, Wyo.

McKelvie said a local patient with an unspecified condition was flown to Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins on March 21. The patient was flown on an aircraft serving St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. A cardiac patient being treated at YVMC was flown to Poudre Valley on March 29, this time via Flight for Life.

McKelvie said efforts are under way to get Yampa Valley Air Ambulance back in the air.

"We're continuing discussions and I know Mountain Flight Service is trying to locate an aircraft," she said.

Yampa Valley Medical Center owns and operates the air ambulance, but contracts with Steamboat Springs-based Mountain Flight Services for the aircraft and flight crews.

The plane that went down was a Beech E-90, commonly referred to as a King Air. Bob Maddox of Mountain Flight Services said he hopes to acquire the same model of airplane. The aircraft is well suited to serve as an air ambulance in a mountain environment, he said, because it has sufficient power to carry heavy loads.

Replacing the air ambulance with an identical aircraft also has the advantage that local pilots have extensive experience with the plane. Plus, the "medical kit" from the previous plane could be fitted into a new E-90.

"We could scoot right into the certification with a couple of weeks," Maddox said. "Yampa Valley Medical Center has told us they want to get up and going as soon as possible. I'm pretty encouraged right now."

He has identified a seller of a used E-90 in Ohio, but the asking price is $750,000. That's more than what the old plane was purchased for and consequently, more than it was insured for.

Although the plane involved in the crash flipped upside down and was totaled, the passenger compartment remained intact after the crash and all of the medical equipment on board at the time was salvaged and is operational, Maddox said.

"The wings were bent but didn't come off. The windows weren't broken and there wasn't even a scratch on the fuselage. The only parts of the aircraft that came off were the nose gear and the radome (on the nose)."

That includes heart monitors, I.V, pumps and ventilators.

This time of year, the air ambulance typically sees light traffic, Maddox said. With the recent good weather, the need to call in air ambulances based elsewhere has not proven to be a problem, he added.

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