Air ambulance crashes on takeoff from Aleutians airport

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 12:13 PM AKST
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An air ambulance crashed while taking off at a major fishing port city in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, municipal officials said Thursday.

A LifeMed medevac aircraft with three people crashed about 8 a.m. after taking off from the Unalaska Airport, acting city manager Marjie Veeder said in a news release.

The Beechcraft King Air aircraft ended up in the ocean between the end of the runway and Hog Island in Unalaska Bay.

The three people on board were picked up by a city harbor vessel and taken to the Iliuliuk Family and Health Services Clinic, Veeder said.

No serious injuries were reported, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said .

“They were in good condition when they were picked up by local harbor patrol,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Ali Blackburn in Juneau.

Unalaska is home to Dutch Harbor, the largest fishing port in the nation by volume of seafood landed.

Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, confirmed the aircraft was a Beechcraft. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

The crash is the second at the airport in three months.

A commuter airplane carrying 42 people, including a high school swim team, went off the runway Oct. 18 and came to a rest just short of the Bering Sea. One man was killed in the crash.

The crash occurred as the pilot made a second attempt to land on the runway. Parts of a propeller blade pierced the cabin.

Unalaska is about 825 miles (1,330 kilometers) west of Anchorage.

LifeMed Alaska, LLC provides 24/7 critical care air ambulance services with a fleet that includes Learjets, turboprops, and helicopters, according to its website. The company is headquartered in Anchorage and has base operations in Fairbanks, Soldotna, Bethel, Palmer, Juneau and Dutch Harbor.

LifeMed Alaska released the following statement related to the crash:

“The pilot and two medical staff crew members were able to safely evacuate the aircraft into a life raft and were rescued within minutes by U.S. Coast Guard. All three were in good condition, were able to move under their own power and are being evaluated at Iliuliuk Family & Health Services Clinic.

The Aircraft, a King Air twin engine turboprop, was being dispatched to pick up a passenger for transport. It is unknown at this time what caused the accident.

According to LifeMed Alaska CEO Russ Edwards, “While taking off for a routine medical transport this morning, our aircraft experienced an unknown issue which forced an emergency water landing. Through skill, training and composure, our pilot and two crew members were able to safely evacuate from the aircraft with minimal injuries. We are extremely grateful for this outcome and are reminded that our profession requires constant vigilance and focus on safety.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will investigate the cause of the accident. Operations at LifeMed Alaska have been temporarily suspended. More information will be released as it becomes available.”

The crash is the third of an air ambulance since November.

A Security Aviation pilot with a paramedic and nurse from Medevac Alaska on Nov. 29 crashed into a mountain near Cooper Landing, killing all three on board.

A pilot from Resolve Aviation with two crew members from Medevac Alaska on Dec. 24 made an emergency landing onto a frozen lake in southwest Alaska near Koliganen. The airplane had dropped off a patient at New Stuyahok and was returning to Anchorage when it lost power. A helicopter transported the crew to Dillingham.

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