There are no new types of air crashes—only people with short memories. Every accident has its own forerunners, and every one happens either because somebody did not know where to draw the vital dividing line between the unforeseen and the unforeseeable or because well-meaning people deemed the risk acceptable.
If politics is the art of the possible, and flying is the art of the seemingly impossible, then air safety must be the art of the economically viable. At a time of crowded skies and sharpening competition, it is a daunting task not to let the art of the acceptable deteriorate into the dodgers' art of what you can get away with.
— Stephen Barlay, The Final Call: Why Airline Disasters Continue to Happen, March 1990.
Helicopter Crashes Into Hospital Courtyard, Killing 2
By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - A helicopter en route to pick up a patient crashed and exploded Friday in a hospital courtyard, killing the pilot and a nurse and injuring a medic.
The crash left a trail of broken windows from the top 12th floor of a tower at University Hospitals.
The helicopter had lifted off the roof about 12:24 a.m. when it apparently veered back into the building, located in the University Circle neighborhood of museums, colleges and well-kept homes.
"I heard and felt the first explosion and saw the fire and couldn't believe it," said Stacy Fetzer, a nursing student who works at the hospital and lives nearby.
Pilot William R. Spence, 51, of Marshallville, and flight nurse Kelly Conti, 38, of Wickliffe, were killed and medic Joe Paoletta, 29, of Brecksville, was burned over 25 percent of his body. He was in serious condition at MetroHealth Medical Center.
Spence died of burns and smoke inhalation, according to Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth K. Balraj, and Conti died of head, neck and pelvis injuries.
No one was hurt in the hospital, which had about 850 of its 947 beds filled. Patients and staff members rushed to look out the windows.
NTSB Identification: IAD02FA026
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Friday, January 18, 2002 in CLEVELAND, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/13/2003
Aircraft: MBB BK-117 A-3, registration: N626MB
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The medevac helicopter lifted off the hospital's roof-top helipad at night. The pilot made a right pedal turn to the northwest, facing a building that extended above the height of the helipad by approximately 10-feet. The paramedic said that when the helicopter was about 20-feet above the helipad, and while he was programming the GPS receiver, a "sudden gust" of wind push the helicopter from directly behind. He was not alerted to anything unusual until he looked up and noticed the helicopter's close proximity to a 16-floor brick building, located at the northern corner of the heliport, which extended above the height of the helipad by 4 floors. The paramedic yelled, "building, building, building!" to alert the pilot. The pilot then made a rapid right cyclic input to avoid hitting the building, but the helicopter struck the building, and fell about 13 floors to ground level. The paramedic did not see or hear any warning lights, horns or unusual noises, and was not aware of any mechanical problems with the helicopter. A police officer who flew two missions in the local area prior to the accident said the wind speed at 500 feet agl was at least 25 knots and gusting from the south/southwest. He stood on the primary helipad after the accident and said mechanical turbulence from the building was evident. An FAA inspector who also stood on the rooftop helipad after the accident said the wind gusts were about 20-30 knots from the southwest and they swirled around the heliport. Review of the helicopter flight manual revealed, "Directional controllability during take-off and landing is assured for flight condition with crosswind components up to 17 [knots].