MACON COUNTY, NC — UPDATE (March 14th):
An Erlanger spokeswoman says LIFE FORCE will begin to return its crews to service.
In accordance with our safety culture, the stand-down allowed time to process the event, review and perform safety checks, and ensure we are well-prepared to return to service,' Erlanger spokeswoman Blaine Kelley says in an email.
Depend on us to keep you posted.
UPDATE (Friday afternoon):
A spokesperson for Erlanger Health Care System says LIFE FORCE will be suspending all operations until "crews feel ready to return to service," following a crash in North Carolina Thursday.
Find out more information about the suspension here.
UPDATE (Friday morning): We've been sent an update from Erlanger Hospital about the crash Thursday night of LIFE FORCE 6.
The Macon County Sheriff says they were transporting an East Tennessee patient suffering from a heart attack.
A flightaware path shows the helicopter take off around 6:47p.m. Thursday night from Andrews North Carolina before crashing 10 minutes later.
The Macon County Sheriff says the helicopter hit a tree, damaging it's tail rotor and forcing the pilot to crash land on the road.
Despite the heavily wooded terrain, the 3 crew members and patient on board all survived.
"Once you look at the helicopter I don't know how they got out," says Sheriff Brent Holbrooks. "From my perspective, the good Lord was on their side for sure."
An Erlanger spokesperson says the pilot was treated at a nearby hospital, the Angel Medical Center.
The other 3 suffered injuries to the back, which are being treated at Mission hospital.
Jim Coleman, Erlanger President and CEO had this to say,
Yesterday evening around 7 p.m., LIFE FORCE 6 crashed in Macon County, NC, while transporting a patient. Thankfully, all four individuals on board, including the patient, are alive. One crew member was evaluated and released from a local hospital. The others on board were admitted to Mission Health, a North Carolina HCA hospital, and are in stable condition. I appreciate the compassion shown by these two hospitals as they cared for our crew and patient while keeping our team informed.
Robbie Tester, Erlanger's VP of Patient Logistics also commented, thanking the first responders who acted swiftly during this difficult time,
We are grateful to our partners in the healthcare community for providing great care to our LIFE FORCE family both on scene and in the hospital and to the Macon Co Sheriff’s Office and other local first responders for their assistance during this difficult time. I’m also grateful for all the calls, texts and concern shown by our staff, public safety agencies, and our air ambulance community from across the country. We do not have information regarding the circumstances or cause of the crash, but understand that the FAA and NTSB will be investigating, as is routine. Safety is of the upmost concern to our program, and as such we have suspend all LIFE FORCE operations until our crews feel ready to return to service.
EARLIER: The National Transportation Safety Board tells us they are investigating the crash. The FAA is also expected to be at the crash site on Friday.
We tracked the helicopter through FlightAware and found the logs for its flight on March 9th.
We were also found the flight path of LIFE FORCE 6.
The FAA confirmed LIFE FORCE 6 is a Eurocopter EC135 medical helicopter.
EARLIER: LIFE FORCE 6 crashed in Macon County, North Carolina while transporting a patient Thursday evening, Erlanger Health System confirms. There were 3 crew members onboard.
Macon County 911 Communications Supervisor Todd Seagle said a call declaring an emergency came in about 7 p.m., and, moments after the call ended, the helicopter went down.
Macon County Sheriff Brent Holbrooks says the helicopter was traveling from eastern Tennessee to Mission Hospital when it crashed along Middle Burningtown Road with four people onboard.
Holbrooks confirmed all four were alive, with three people involved in the crash transported by ground ambulance to Mission Hospital with minor to moderate injuries and the other transported to Angel Medical Center for evaluation.
The pilot was not transported.
Macon County Emergency Services Director Warren Cabe says there was no fire, but the aircraft sustained severe damage.
A section of Middle Burningtown Road will be closed until at least late in the day Friday as investigators sift through the wreckage and work to determine the cause of the crash, Cabe said.
The Erlanger Health System spokesperson said only preliminary details were available, but that this is the first crash in the LIFE FORCE program's 34-year history.
According to LIFE FORCE Air Medical, the company began operating out of Andrews, N.C., in August 2017, when it opened a base at the Western North Carolina Airport.
LIFE FORCE operates two air-bus helicopters out of the base.
Our sister station WLOS has a crew on the way to the scene.
This is a developing story and will be updated.