Two air ambulance companies turned down flight to Seward before deadly crash

Alaska State Troopers search by air for a missing Security Aviation flight off the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing. Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Two air ambulance services declined a patient transport request from Seward on Friday evening before a third company took the flight, leading to a fatal crash that killed three people.

The request for a patient transport came from Providence Seward Medical Center at approximately 5:30 p.m.

Jim Gregory, a spokesperson for Guardian Flight, confirmed over the weekend that the company received a patient transport flight request from Seward but put the flight on hold. He says the flight was completed on Saturday by Guardian.

Gregory would not confirm whether it was poor weather that prompted the flight to be turned down earlier.

LifeMed Alaska also received a request for the same medical flight from Seward on Friday evening, but the flight was declined due to poor weather conditions.

Steve Heyano, the Chief Operating Officer of LifeMed Alaska, said the company would usually use a helicopter based out of Soldotna to complete a medical flight from Seward. The pilot in Soldotna said the conditions did not meet minimum requirements to fly.

A LifeMed fixed-wing plane in Anchorage, which has lower weather condition requirements to fly, was also requested Friday. The weather conditions were also deemed too poor to fly, Heyano said.

The company has a policy of “all to go, one to say no,” where any member of a crew can decline a flight if the conditions are felt to be too dangerous. Heyano said it is commonplace in the industry that the pilot is not told the medical condition of the patient in order to not impact their decision on whether or not to fly.

Medevac Alaska, a third air ambulance company based out of Anchorage, took the flight shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Friday down to Seward in a plane operated by Security Aviation. A company representative for Security Aviation, said the companies regularly work together and that it is routine for Medevac Alaska to charter a Security Aviation plane for a flight.

The representative could not confirm whether Security Aviation accepted the flight after LifeMed and Guardian declined the flight or if Security Aviation was aware that the flight had been declined by two other companies.

According to Alaska State Troopers, the plane crashed around 11 miles from Quartz Creek near Cooper Landing. All three people on board the flight died.

Late on Sunday, Medevac Alaska confirmed that paramedic Maddox Burts and registered nurse Robert Cartner were the two passengers who died during the crash. Security Aviation confirmed on Monday that Glen Morthorpe was the pilot who perished in the crash.

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