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Sheriff suspects geese caused fatal medical helicopter crash in Arkansas; 3 victims identified

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Arkansas Online staff | November 20, 2017 at 12:08 p.m. | Updated November 20, 2017 at 5:28 p.m.

An Arkansas sheriff suspects geese caused the crash of a Bell 407 GXP medical helicopter Sunday night, killing all three crew members aboard.

“That’s what I figure,” said Arkansas County Sheriff Todd Wright. “The FAA guy said he doesn’t think geese would down a copter, but he has no idea how many are in a flock.”

Wright said the helicopter crashed on a levee along Hamptons Reservoir near Lodge Corner, an area that has 10,000 to 15,000 geese.

“Every field is full of them,” said Wright. “You couldn’t put another one in it.”

Wright said he talked to a woman who witnessed the crash.

“She said it just started spinning, starting spiraling down,” said Wright. “She said the geese started getting loud. I’m sure the crash could have spooked them and made a big racket going down.”

— Bill Bowden

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

EARLIER:

Officials have named the three people killed in a medical helicopter crash Sunday evening in a rural part of eastern Arkansas.

In a statement, Pine Bluff-based Pafford Air One identified the victims as 46-year-old pilot Michael "Mike" Bollen of Hot Springs; 61-year-old flight nurse James "Jim" Lawson Spruiell of Sulligent, Ala.; and 26-year-old flight paramedic John "Trey" Auld III of Shreveport, La.

Spruiell and Auld worked for Pafford Air One, the release states. Bollen was a pilot for Air Methods Corp. of Englewood, Colo.

The aircraft was reportedly owned, operated and maintained by Air Methods Corp for Pafford Air One, which provides emergency transport in Arkansas as well as three surrounding states.

The Federal Aviation Administration also released its preliminary report Monday on the helicopter crash.

The agency said its early findings show that a Bell 407 Rotorcraft helicopter with three people on board crashed “under unknown circumstances” Sunday evening about 10 miles from DeWitt. No patients were on board at the time.

Officials say the helicopter was was flying from Pine Bluff to Helena Regional Medical Center.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation. The panel was set to arrive at the crash site by Monday afternoon.

"We are all devastated and profoundly saddened by the tragic loss of these valued EMS colleagues and friends," Pafford Air One Director Dustin Ross said in a statement.

Melody Daniel, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said Monday that her agency would provide updates once additional details about the crash were known.

— Brandon Riddle

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