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The Arkansas County sheriff suspects that geese caused the crash of a Bell 407 GXP medical helicopter on Sunday night that killed all three crew members aboard.

"That's what I figure," said Sheriff Todd Wright. "The [Federal Aviation Administration] 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."

The official cause of the crash hasn't been determined.

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Map showing the location of the Helicopter crash that happened Sunday night

Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency doesn't "engage in speculation."

"A team of trained aircraft crash investigators led by the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the wreckage and other evidence to determine the probable cause," Lunsford said in an email.

The helicopter was flying from Pine Bluff to Helena-West Helena when it crashed about 12 miles west of DeWitt at about 8 p.m. Sunday, according to a press release from Pafford Air One of Pine Bluff. The helicopter was owned, operated and maintained by Air Methods Corp. of Englewood, Colo., for Pafford Air One, which is a sister company of Pafford Medical Services Inc. of Hope.

Killed in the crash were Air Methods pilot Michael Bollen, 46, of Hot Springs; Pafford flight nurse James Lawson Spruiell, 61, of Sulligent, Ala.; and Pafford flight paramedic John Auld III, 26, of Shreveport, according to the news release.

No patients were aboard the helicopter, which was en route to Helena Regional Medical Center.

"We are of course all devastated and profoundly saddened by the tragic loss of these valued EMS colleagues and friends," said Dustin Ross, director for Pafford Air One. "We will continue to try and comfort the crew's families as well as everyone in our employ."

Wright said an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash site at about 4:30 p.m. Monday. Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the board, said no further information was available Monday, and when additional information becomes available, it will be posted on Twitter at NTSB_Newsroom.

Wright said the bodies of the victims were taken from the Arkansas County coroner's office to the Arkansas medical examiner's office on Monday afternoon.

On Feb. 19, 2005, three Pafford Emergency Medical Services paramedics were killed when a northbound Union Pacific freight train crashed into their ambulance at a railroad crossing near Fulton in Hempstead County. A patient in the ambulance survived the crash. The accident was the state's deadliest for an ambulance crew in at least 25 years.

Metro on 11/21/2017

Print Headline: Sheriff suspects copter hit geese; Crash expert is at site where 3 air ambulance crewmen died

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