Pilot of medical helicopter becomes unresponsive while in flight

Looking back at a story from January, 2019

Bell 206L-4 Long Ranger
File photo of an example of a Bell 206L-4 Long Ranger, operated by CTV in BC. Photo by Marek Wozniak. (This is not the helicopter in the story)

Wildland firefighters on large incidents commonly fly in helicopters, many of them with a single pilot. It is possible that some of those passengers may have thought about what would happen if the pilot was suddenly incapacitated due to a medical event or being struck by a bird or drone. The most-read story on Vertical magazine’s website in 2019 was about just that.

Elan HeadA Bell 206 LongRanger had just lifted off after loading a patient when the pilot became unresponsive. The story covers what happened during the flight and importantly, the long term effects.

It is an excellent article written by Elan Head, a helicopter pilot. Here is how it begins:

“Where are we going?”

It was Jan. 12, 2018. The Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter had just lifted from a scene call near its base in Kinder, Louisiana, north of Interstate 10 between Lake Charles and Lafayette. The patient was a frail, elderly woman who had been sedated and intubated on scene.

In the back of the Bell 206L LongRanger, flight nurse Tara Coupel and flight paramedic Lane Abshire were attending to the patient when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom: “Where are we going?”

“Lafayette General,” Abshire replied, referring to Lafayette General Medical Center, around 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the southeast.

“OK, where?” the pilot asked.

Abshire and Coupel thought at first that there was a problem with the intercom system. They unplugged their helmet cords and plugged them back in; tried telling the pilot again. But he repeated, “OK, where?”

The helicopter was now about 800 feet over the ground. Abshire asked Coupel to get out of her seat and tell the pilot where they were headed. She unbuckled her seatbelt, removed her helmet, and moved forward to tap on the pilot’s shoulder.

“Lafayette General!” she shouted at him. Although she was disconnected from the intercom, she could see him mouthing the words beneath his mic boom, “OK, where?”

After you read the full article, here is a link to a follow-up story about the incident: How Air Evac Lifeteam is helping crews prepare for a pilot incapacitation event

Crop duster sprays holy water on Louisiana community

Holy Water crop duster Louisiana
A Roman Catholic church in southwestern Louisiana came up with a novel way to spread the gospel: blessing an entire community by way of crop duster. Photo: Diocese of Lafayette

A Roman Catholic church in rural Louisiana hoping to maximize its blessings has come up with a way to do it: filling up a crop-duster plane with holy water and letting the sanctified liquid mist an entire community.

“We can bless more area in a shorter amount of time,” Rev. Matthew Barzare of St. Anne Church in Cow Island, La., told NPR.

Following this past Saturday’s mass, parishioners from the church in southwestern Louisiana headed to an airstrip about five minutes away from the church. Churchgoers brought with them 100 gallons of water, which was loaded into the crop duster.

“I blessed it there, and we waited for the pilot to take off,” Barzare said, noting that it was the largest amount of water he had ever turned holy.

The pilot had instructions to drizzle certain parts of the community, including churches, schools, grocery stores and other community gathering places.

From NPR.org