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Medical chopper crashes in Tennessee, killing crew of three

Emergency responders along the road near where a medical helicopter crashed Tuesday in Tennessee, killing all three on the crew. WMC-TV

Three people were killed Tuesday when a medical helicopter crashed in Tennessee on its way to pick up a patient for treatment at a children's hospital, authorities said.

"We just can never expect it to be this kind of risk when you come to work in the morning," said Meri Armour, chief executive of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.

"It's a sad day for Le Bonheur," Armour said at a news conference. "We have lost two of our associates, a registered nurse and a respiratory therapist."

The helicopter was operated by Hospital Wing, a nonprofit air medical cooperative of hospitals in Tennessee. It crashed on about 6:30 a.m. ET Tuesday near Somerville, in Fayette County, about halfway between Memphis and the flight's destination, Bolivar, about 40 miles east, the air service said.

The victims were identified as:

  • Carrie Barlow, 43, a nurse on the hospital's Pedi-Flite team. She was married with three children.
  • Denise Adams, 43, a respiratory therapist with the Pedi-Flite team. She was also married with three children.
  • Charles Smith, 47, the pilot. He was married with two children.

"They went to pick up a young child that was in renal failure, as I understand," Armour said. "He was not on the flight. They were en route to get him when the [helicopter] crashed."

An ambulance was sent to pick up the child.

Dr. Jay Pershad, a professor at the hospital's research center, called the crew "an incredibly talented group of professionals who rescues critically ill and injured children for a 130-mile radius and brings them to Le Bonheur."

"We do this every day, but this is an incredibly sad day for us," he told NBC station WMC of Memphis.

Ralph Hicks, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the Eurocopter AS350 went down about 20 minutes into the flight. He said he wasn't aware of any distress calls.

"What I see so far is about 90 percent of the helicopter is destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire," he said.

Hicks said the NTSB would need "four or five days" to gather more information at the scene.

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