Preliminary Report: Emergency medical helo loses control in IMC

 - January 4, 2008, 9:46 AM

Agusta A109K2, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 10, 2003–Life Flight 6 was destroyed, its instrument-rated commercial pilot and flight paramedic killed and a flight nurse seriously injured when the helicopter crashed at approximately 8:50 p.m. MST while attempting to maneuver in dense fog near Salt Lake City. N601RX was owned and operated by IHC (Intermountain Health Care) Health Services of Salt Lake City.

Night IMC prevailed throughout the area for the Part 91 flight, which was operating on a VFR flight plan. The flight originated from the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City at 8:31 p.m. and was en route to Wendover, Utah, to pick up a patient who had been injured in an auto accident.

According to ATC, after crossing the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) on a westerly heading, the pilot encountered deteriorating visibility and elected to return to the hospital. The pilot was unable to obtain a clearance to cross the airport on an easterly heading and was asked to hold west of the airport until Salt Lake arriving traffic was clear. While holding, the pilot encountered IMC and declared an emergency. The controller issued a heading of 340 degrees to vector the helicopter to SLC. No reply was received from the helicopter and a search was initiated.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. the helicopter wreckage was located by rescue personnel half a mile southwest of the approach end of SLC Runway 34L. The aircraft initially hit a soft field on a magnetic heading of 150 degrees, became airborne, and then came to rest in the upright position approximately 1/4 mile from the initial impact. There was no post-impact fire. The SLC airport weather at the time was winds from 350 degrees at 6 knots, visibility of a 1/8 mile in fog, with a vertical visibility (VV) of 200 feet.