St. Petersburg, FL Medical Helicopter Crash, Apr 2000

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3 DIE IN FLORIDA MEDICAL HELICOPTER CRASHES INTO BROADCASTING TOWER.

St. Petersburg, Florida - (AP) - A medical evacuation helicopter crashed Tuesday on the marshy edge of Tampa Bay, killing the three crew members aboard, officials said.
No patients were aboard. The Bayflite helicopter, which crashed shortly after noon, had just dropped off a patient at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and was returning to its home base at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
Witnesses said the helicopter went down in pieces after clipping and toppling a 500-foot broadcast tower. But officials said they did not know if the helicopter was already in trouble when it hit the tower, or if clipping the tower caused the crash.
The weather was clear and visibility was good. No mechanical problem was reported, said Sue Brody, Bayfront's chief executive officer.
The helicopter crashed in the Snug Harbor-Weedon Island area of mangroves and canoe trails, northeast of St. Petersburg.
The victims were ALICIA BETITA COLLINS, 51, of Tampa, an Air Force flight nurse who also worked part time for Bayflite; Bayflite paramedic ERIC HANGARTER, 29, of Sarasota, and pilot MARK WALLACE, 39, of Tampa.
The crews of local air ambulances are mostly made up of firefighters
and paramedics who do duty as a part-time job.
Thomas Stubblefield, 31, a flight medic assigned to the helicopter that crashed, was on his day off when the phone rang and he was told his crew had gone down.
"You never know when is the last time you will see them," said Stubblefield, a Clearwater firefighter. "Everybody knows there is an element of danger, but you don't think about it."

Hultgren News Article 2000-04-26