SEMINOLE, Okla. – The Mediflight helicopter pilot who made an emergency landing near Seminole Wednesday is in “fair condition” at an area hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson.
David Eastep, along with two nurses and a paramedic, crash landed in an open field when the engine of the EC130 suddenly failed a few miles after leaving Seminole.
They were en route to pick up a patient.
Eastep’s family members said Thursday he suffered a broken back and broken femur.
They said Eastep had worked for Mediflight for over 27 years.
Mediflight is operated by Air Methods.
“Air Methods is the world’s largest operator of EMS helicopters but they have had more than their share of crashes,” helicopter pilot and aviation attorney Ladd Sanger said.
He points to other recent helicopter crashes in Arizona and, just last month, one in Illinois that killed the pilot and two nurses.
The cause of Wednesday’s engine failure is unknown but Sanger said based on previous helicopter crash causes, the engine failure could have been due to a loose bolt, faulty blades or poor maintenance.
Sanger said ground ambulances are often faster, safer and more cost-effective than air transports.
“We are using helicopters in far too many instances where they are not medically necessary simply because they’re sitting there on the helipad and the hospital and the operator need to have them flying to make money and we’re seeing people get injured and killed when they shouldn’t have been in the helicopter in the first place,” he said.
Bob Moore Chopper 4 pilot Jon Welsh credits Eastep for being able to turn the helicopter 180 degrees into the wind to land in a field, instead the woods or a pond.
“If he lines up on the pond at a couple hundred feet, that’s probably where he’s going to end up going or he’s going to have to roll the aircraft,” Welsh said. “So he did a good job of picking out the exact spot early on.”
Air Methods did not return our calls Thursday and did not release the identity of the other three passengers who were injured.
Eastep’s family said he needed surgery Wednesday night and Thursday.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating Wednesday’s crash.