At 5:45 Wednesday night, an Airbus AS350 B3E lifted about thirty feet of the roof off the University of New Mexico Children’s hospital in Albuquerque before crashing back down. The helicopter landed on its side, showing a broken tail section. Witnesses claim to have felt a strong breeze before noticing that the helicopter begin wobbling.
According to the Albuquerque Journal one witness, Jonathan Goss, said he was in his dorm room when he heard it. “In the movies, when a helicopter starts spinning out of control. It sounded exactly like that.”
The helicopter had just completed a patient drop-off before the crash. However, there were three other people on board, two staff members and the pilot. There is very little information available on the injuries suffered by the parties that were aboard the helicopter, but it seems that all three of them are in stable condition.
Hospital employees evacuated the top floors, moving any area that was just beneath the helipad to another floor. Although the tail section seemed to be stable enough, the area just below where it landed was also cordoned off. No serious structural damage has been noted as of yet, but safety precautions are being taken to ensure that no one is hurt during the clean-up and investigation into the crash.
Lynn Lunsford, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that an investigation was beginning as of Wednesday night. The National Transportation Safety Board will be getting involved as well, and the helicopter will remain on the roof while the site is evaluated. As of yet, there is no clear cause for the helicopter crash.
Petroleum Helicopters International owns the helicopter in question and has been regularly flying patients to the hospital. Since 2009, however, there have been two other helicopter crashes for the company. In 2009, there was a helicopter crash 80 miles away from New Orleans and eight people were killed. In 2012, there was another crash in the Gulf of Mexico where an Iraq war veteran was killed. The people involved in this alleged accident were lucky.
The hospital originally diverted some pediatric patients to other hospitals, but has since returned to normal operations outside of the top two floors. Several other New Mexico hospitals are remaining on call in case any other patients need to be diverted until the helicopter is cleared from the roof and the structure inspected for any further damage.