Five people, including a 15-month-old patient and her mother, died Aug. 5 when an air ambulance crashed in the mountains of New Mexico. The crash near Ruidoso also killed a paramedic, a nurse and former paramedic, and the 56-year-old pilot on the Southwest Med Evac flight.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
The dead were identified as paramedic Deanna Palmer, 40, of Prescott Valley, Ariz.; Brian Miller, RN, 44, of Roswell; pilot Ricky Byers of Ruidoso; and Lily Smith, 15 months, and her mother, Tracy Smith, 41, both of Ruidoso, according to the Southwest Med Evac website and obituaries.
The accident happened the night of Aug. 5 soon after the Southwest Med Evac Beechcraft King Air E-90 took off from Sierra Blanca Airport near Ruidoso, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records. The plane was en route to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque because the child was ill.
Rob Campion, spokesman for Southwest Med Evac, declined to say why the child was being taken to Albuquerque, but a friend of the mother told the Ruidoso News that the child apparently had seizures and was becoming cyanotic when she was taken to the Ruidoso hospital.
During Palmer's career, she served as an Army medic, a firefighter in Idaho, and served in the National Guard. She is survived by her parents and three daughters.
Miller, who joined Southwest Med Evac in 2006, had been a nurse since 1997. He became a firefighter in 1989, and worked for the Carlsbad, N.M., fire department from 1992 to 1993. He became a paramedic in 1994, then worked as a nurse assistant until he became an RN. He is survived by a wife and three daughters.
Byers graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in Agricultural Economics in 1973, and then ran Sunnyside Grain and Fertilizer, in Sunnyside, Texas, until 2006. He became a pilot of Southwest Med Evac in 2006.
Campion said an Aug. 9 memorial service in Roswell drew hundreds of medical personnel, firefighters and law enforcement officers from across the state and region. Flight crews and helicopters from other air ambulance services also attended.
Tracy Smith was an instructor for the handicapped skiers program at Ski Apache near Ruidoso in the winter, and during the summer she was a landscaper and operated the beverage cart for golfers, the Ruidoso News reported
The Sierra Blanca airport is about 6,800 feet above sea level. At the time of the accident, winds were variable and visibility was about 10 miles, the FAA reported. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
Southwest Med Evac is headquartered in Las Cruces. It began in 1994, and now serves southern New Mexico and west Texas from 10 cities. It has nine helicopters. The plane that crashed was one of eight the company also owns, according to the Southwest Med Evac website.
A memorial page has been set up by Southwest Med Evac for the five people that perished on Aug. 5, 2007.