Air ambulance remains grounded

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— Yampa Valley Medical Center intends to resume its air ambulance service in the wake of a recent crash that crippled its airplane, but no date has been set.

The hospital suspended Yampa Valley Air Ambulance March 19 after the plane it uses to fly patients to other medical centers crashed just outside Kremmling.

The pilot, nurse and paramedic on board walked away with minor injuries, but the plane was extensively damaged.

Cindy Maddox said the plane was a total loss. Maddox is co-owner of Mountain Flight Service, the company that leases the plane and staffs a pilot to Yampa Valley Medical Center for emergency patient transports.

Other air ambulance services in Colorado have been providing patient transports since the accident. Yampa Valley Medical Center will rely on other communities' air ambulance services until it can lease an airplane specially equipped for medical emergencies, said Karl Gills, chief executive officer of Yampa Valley Medical Center.

"At this time, Mountain Flight Service is looking for a replacement aircraft, and we have no firm timetable," Gills said.

Maddox said it is too early to set a date because an airplane that meets federal standards must still be found. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

The twin-engine King Air E90 was en route from Grand Junction to the Steamboat Springs Airport when it was diverted to the Kremmling Airport to pick up a snowboarder injured at the Winter Park Ski Area. The plane slid to a stop in 12 to 18 inches of snow on Junction Butte, a mountain two miles southeast of Kremmling. Had the impact occurred about 20 feet lower, the plane would have rammed into the side of the mountain. The flight crew safely exited the aircraft through a door and walked away from the wreckage.

About six to eight members of Grand County Search and Rescue responded to the crash site on snowmobiles and moved the flight crew to safety. The pilot and nurse were taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where they were treated and released. The pilot sustained a minor injury and the nurse suffered minor injuries and a compression spine fracture. The paramedic did not require medical care.

Yampa Valley Medical Center works cooperatively with Mountain Flight Service to fly patients who require more care to other hospitals in cities such as Denver, Grand Junction and Fort Collins.

Yampa Valley Air Ambulance flew 136 flights in 2002.

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