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Should air ambulance involved in fatal crash have been flying?

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation of a fatal crash last month of a medical helicopter headed for an Alabama hospital. However, in its preliminary report, the NTSB noted that the chopper was not certified to fly in the foggy, low-visibility weather conditions it encountered on the flight because it didn't have the proper instruments.

The helicopter crashed near Enterprise. All four people on board -- the patient, a flight nurse, flight medic and the pilot -- perished when the helicopter fell 1,100 feet and landed in a swampy area on March 26. The patient was being transported from the scene of an accident.

One aviation lawyer says that based on the preliminary report, it appears that the engine and control system were working properly at the time of the fatal crash. He notes that the focus on the weather conditions by the NTSB seems appropriate because poor weather conditions can lead to spatial disorientation for a pilot. He explains, "You don't know where you are in space."

Just over two years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced new safety initiatives for air ambulances. These include more on-board safety equipment and additional training.

The information in the preliminary report on this Alabama crash is more detailed than that in most. However, it could take more than a year for federal authorities to determine the precise cause of the accident.

When someone is seriously injured or killed in an accident involving a commercial vehicle or aircraft, it's essential to determine the cause and who bears some responsibility. This can include multiple individuals and/or entities. Alabama attorneys can work to help victims and surviving loved ones determine this so that they get the compensation to which they're entitled.

Source: ABC News, "NTSB: Copter Not Certified to Fly in Conditions Before Crash," Jeff Martin, AP, April 11, 2016

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