The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed in a Missouri field had reported that it was low on fuel, federal transportation officials say, but it could be as much as a year before they know what caused the crash that killed all four people onboard.
The Eurocopter AS-350, owned by Colorado-based Air Methods Corp. and flown by its subsidiary, LifeNet, crashed just before 7 p.m. Friday two miles from Mosby, where it had planned to land at the Midwest National Air Center for refueling. The helicopter's ultimate destination was a suburban Kansas City hospital, about 10 miles from Mosby.
The pilot, two medical crew members and a 58-year-old female patient were killed.
The helicopter had flown from St. Joseph, where it is sometimes based at Heartland Regional Medical Center, to Bethany, near the Iowa border, to pick up the patient before heading to Liberty to drop her off.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said there was no distress call from the helicopter and now witnesses to the accident.
Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said it was too early to determine whether fuel had anything to do with the crash.
Air Methods Corp. on Saturday identified crew members as Randy Bever, 47, a flight nurse from Savannah, Mo.; Chris Frakes, 36, a flight paramedic from Savannah; and James Freudenbert, 34, a pilot from Rapid City, S.D.
"We are all shocked and saddened by this tragic accident," Heartland Regional Medical Center said in a statement Saturday. "Two of the accident victims working on the LifeNet medical crew were also Team Heartland caregivers. Chris Frakes was a paramedic and had been with us five years. Randy Bever was the lead Registered Nurse in our emergency department and had been with us 23 years."
Robert Powell, assistant EMS director in Doniphan County, Kan., told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday that he had known Bever for 20 years and hadn't been able to stop crying since he got word of the crash.
"When the paramedics like me were in the field, Randy was the guy we called," Powell said. "He was the guy you wanted walking out of that helicopter when it landed."
Powell said Bever made people feel welcome, even during tense times, and shared his knowledge with medical professionals throughout the region.
"You couldn't ask for a better guy," he said. "He knew everybody. He was a mentor and a teacher to a lot of nurses (at Heartland). I don't know how many people's lives he touched, but it had to be thousands. He's the guy we called when we were in trouble."
Air Methods vice president Craig Yale said plans were being made for a memorial service for the crew members.