Chopper Crash Survivor Wants Safer Medevacs

Maryland medevac flights down significantly since crash

LINTHICUM, Md. -- Maryland's medevac program should be changed to avoid future tragedies, said the survivor of a medevac helicopter crash that killed four people.

"I just wish someone would find what's wrong with all of these helicopters and fix them so this won't ever happen again and no one will have to go through what I've been through," said 18-year-old Jordan Wells.

Wells spoke Monday at the hospital where she was treated in the weeks following the crash, which killed Wells' friend, 17-year-old Ashley Younger. The two had been involved in an automobile accident.

Wells said she's not sure her injuries warranted her being airlifted from the scene of the crash.

Doctors had to amputate Wells' right leg below the knee, for which she'll get a prosthesis. She broke her neck and her spine. While she has been released from the hospital, she still has months of rehabilitation ahead.

"I felt the helicopter hit some trees, like branches and stuff, and all of a sudden I blanked out, and the next thing I remember was waking up in the woods on the ground, because what we found out is the helicopter actually spit me out so I got thrown out of the helicopter before it hit the ground," Wells said.

Wells thanked the three men who saved her.

"I was very scared and alone, and I was in a lot of pain," she said. "I just prayed out to God that I would be saved."

Wells' family is planning legal action, according to the family's lawyer.

Maryland's medevac helicopter program flies more patients than comparable programs and may use too many helicopters, an expert panel concluded Tuesday.

However, the panel did not explicitly recommend reducing the size of the fleet or changing the guidelines for transporting trauma patients by air.

Instead, Maryland should study the available data on whether patients benefit medically from being flown before implementing any such changes, panelists said.

The panel did recommend that a second paramedic be added to each flight crew and that the state follow federal standards for commercial aviation, rather than the less stringent general aviation standards.

Maryland's medevac program could become a model for the nation if the recommendations are followed, the panel said.

The head of the agency that coordinates Maryland's emergency response said far fewer patients have been flown to trauma centers in the seven weeks since the crash. Two-hundred twenty-six patients have been airlifted since the crash, said Dr. Robert Bass. At that pace, fewer than 1,700 patients annually would be taken by helicopter to trauma centers. In the most recent fiscal year, more than 4,100 patients flew in medevac helicopters.

The decrease stems in part from a new protocol under which paramedics consult with doctors before deciding whether certain patients who don't have obvious injuries should be flown, Bass said. There's some reluctance since the crash to fly patients unnecessarily, he said, and he's concerned that some patients who need to be flown are instead being transported by ambulance.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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