No. 5: Helicopter ambulance crashes, kills 4

Investigators remove the rotor of the LifeNet helicopter that crashed in a field east of Kearney, Mo., in August.

Three LifeNet flight members and a patient died Aug. 26 when their emergency medical services helicopter lost power and crashed near a refueling facility at Mosby, Mo. The LifeNet personnel included Randy Bever, 47, a flight nurse from Savannah, Mo.; Chris Frakes, 36, a flight paramedic from Savannah, Mo.; and James Freudenberg, 34, the pilot, from Rapid City, S.D. The patient was identified as 58-year-old Terry Tacoronte.

Mr. Bever had joined the LifeNet team in 1998 and was the lead registered nurse in the Heartland Regional Medical Center emergency department. He had worked at the hospital for 23 years.

Mr. Frakes had been with Air Methods and Heartland since 2006.

They are greatly missed by all of the Heartland team, said Dr. Mark Laney, Heartland CEO.

The pilot, Mr. Freudenberg, joined Air Methods in 2010. His flight experience included more than 2,100 hours and service in Afghanistan.

The helicopter originally took off at 5:30 p.m. that Friday from Rosecrans Memorial Airport, to pick up Mrs. Tacoronte at Harrison County Community Hospital in Bethany, Mo. Mr. Freudenberg called the company’s Omaha communications center, while he was in Bethany, to say he didn’t have as much fuel as originally reported.

Mr. Freudenberg left Bethany with the patient and 45 minutes’ worth of fuel. The helicopter was heading to the Midwest National Air Center at Mosby to refuel when it crashed.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report says there was no post-impact fire.

Victor Tacoronte, Mrs. Tacoronte’s husband, hired Robb & Robb L.L.C., a law firm that specializes in helicopter crashes and aviation law, to represent him in a civil case filed against Air Methods Corp. and LifeNet Air Medical Services. The suit alleges LifeNet did not use enough fuel when transporting the patient.

The Tacorontes lived in Colorado, but were visiting McFall, Mo., to be close to Mrs. Tacoronte’s mother.

The NTSB has not completed its investigation and hasn’t cited low fuel as a cause. The full investigation should be completed sometime next summer.

The lawsuit originally included Heartland as a defendant, but the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Heartland on Dec. 6.

Marshall White can be reached at marshall.white@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWhite.

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