Pilot error likely caused fatal medical helicopter crash

Updated: Jun. 15, 2018 at 7:03 PM CDT
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Chad Hammond, Jason Snipes, Stacey Cernadas and Zack Strickland (Photos source: Facebook)
Chad Hammond, Jason Snipes, Stacey Cernadas and Zack Strickland (Photos source: Facebook)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has released its final report on the 2016 south Alabama crash that killed four aboard a Haynes Ambulance medical helicopter.

Killed in the Haynes Ambulance medical helicopter crash on March 26, 2016, were pilot Chad Hammond, flight nurse Stacey Cernadas, flight medic Jason Snipes and patient Zach Strickland.

According to the official findings of the investigation, the pilot's actions were determined to be the probable cause of the crash with the report stating:

"The pilot's decision to perform visual flight rules flight into night instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in loss of control due to spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's self-induced pressure to complete the mission despite the weather conditions and the operator's inadequate oversight of the flight by its operational control center."

The NTSB report detailed the events of that night that led up to the fatal crash near Enterprise in Coffee County.

The flight crew of Life Flight 2 was dispatched from its base at Troy Regional Medical Center at 11:26 p.m. en route to the site of a car crash to pick up a patient for transport.

The helicopter landed at the scene at 11:53 p.m. The weather at the car crash scene included fog, mist, and light precipitation. A nearby weather station indicated there was a 300-foot ceiling and three miles of visibility.

At 12:16 a.m., once the patient was on board, the helicopter climbed from the crash scene, turned north, and climbed to an altitude of 1,100 feet. The chopper crashed to the ground about a half-mile away in a flight that lasted less than a minute.

When the pilot did not check in with the communications center as he was required to do, a search was started for the missing helicopter. The wreckage was found the next morning on County Road 615 near County Road 603 in the Goodman Community.

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