Crash report issued

Plane had ice on wings, NTSB says

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— Ice covered parts of a Yampa Valley Air Ambulance that crashed in Rawlins, Wyo., on Jan. 11, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released this week.

Pilot Tim Benway and flight nurses Dave Linner and Jennifer Wells died in the crash; emergency medical technician Tim Baldwin survived but suffered severe injuries.

The report said ice about 1 1/2 inches thick covered de-icing boots on both wings. Investigators also found ice on a propeller and a tire, according to the report.

The air ambulance, a twin-engine Beech E-90 King Air operated by Mountain Flight Service, left Steamboat Springs for Carbon County Hospital to pick up a patient going to Casper, Wyo.

The flight went down at about 9:45 p.m. about three miles northeast of Rawlins Municipal Airport.

The de-icing boots, which inflate to crack ice on wings, operated normally during a test of the airplane's flight systems in a Greeley hangar, where the wreckage was taken after the crash, according to the report.

An examination of the airplane's electrical, fuel and other systems did not indicate there were any problems before the crash, and an inspection of the engines showed both were producing power at the time of the crash, according to the report.

About 40 minutes before take-off, Benway requested a weather briefing for areas near Rawlins and Casper. The briefer told him there was "light to moderate" snow-shower activity between Rock Springs, Wyo., and Rawlins.

Looks "like moderate precipitation just blowing right up your way," the briefer said, according to the report.

The report does not name a probable cause for the crash, which disappointed Bob Maddox, who owns Mountain Flight Service with his wife, Cindy.

He said safety board Regional Director David Bowling told him the air ambulance crash would be among those reviewed in a public hearing in January in Washington, D.C. At that point, the board likely will issue a probable cause, he said.

Bowling, who was in charge of the report, was not available for comment.

Mountain Flight Service had a contract with Yampa Valley Medical Center to provide an airplane and pilot for the medical flights. The hospital provided medical crews and portable medical supplies.

Yampa Valley Medical Center officials in August announced the hospital would not re-establish air ambulance service. The hospital has used Flight for Life and Air Life, services based on the Front Range, since the crash.

Mountain Flight Service maintains and manages aircraft and flights for private clients but has not been involved in any commercial flights, Maddox said.

He declined to comment more on the report.

The Rawlins crash was the second Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crash in two years. The board's investigation also considered a March 2003 crash near Kremmling, blamed about pilot error. The three people aboard suffered minor injuries.

The January crash was among 11 other medical plane or helicopter crashes in 12 months. That spurred the board to suggest new regulations to the Federal Aviation Administration for changes to the air ambulance industry.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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