Webster City, IA Life Flight Helicopter Crash, Mar 1980


Des Moines, Iowa (UPI) -- Three people, including two nurses, were killed Monday in the crash of one of Iowa's Life Flight helicopters that was on route to airlift a heart patient back to a Des Moines hospital.
Robert Black of the Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where the helicopter was based, said the pilot, NICK ROETNOR, 29, and nurse HALLIE BURNS, 25, were killed in the 5 a.m. crash at Webster City.
The third victim, MAUREEN GRIFFEN, 25, an emergency nurse training for the Life Flight crew, died about four hours later after she was transferred by ground ambulance to Iowa Methodist.
The French-made 350 A-Star helicopter, one of three used in Iowa, was attempting to land on the helipad at the Hamilton County Hospital in Webster City at the time of the crash.
James Hoskins, the hospital's director of safely and security, said the helicopter did not have a flight recorder, but accounts of conversations between the emergency room at the Hamilton County Hospital and ROETNOR -- a former helicopter pilot in Vietnam -- indicating the landing would be uneventful.
Hoskins said the hospital's Life Flight program had flown 144 successful missions without incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the crash.
Black said emergency room personnel who worked with the Life Flight program were too badly shaken to talk about the crash. He said workers took up collections for relatives of the victims and there likely will be a memorial service at the hospital.
Although the emergency room was closed to non-medical personnel, nurses and orderlies hurrying about their duties were visibly affected by the loss of the three workers. Some were seen wiping away tears.
"We're all affected. We're all tired. These people here in a hospital are like family to each other. It's like losing someone in your family," one nurse said.
Hoskins said studies have shown that 25 percent of patients transported to hospitals by Life Flight helicopter would not have survived had they traveled by ambulance.
The patient the downed helicopter was to have picked up, Lois Monson, 57, of Webster City, was transferred by ground ambulance in critical condition with a heart ailment.
Hoskins said Methodist Medical Center officials are uncertain when the Life Flight program will be able to resume. The helicopter was leased from the Rocky Mountain Helicopter Service in Provo, Utah, for a monthly fee of $24,000.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1980-03-04