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Missouri Helicopter Crew Recovering After Crash

Three crew members from a University of Missouri Health Care helicopter were in fair condition today after a crash landing yesterday in La Monte. "We're just blessed their injuries were not life-threatening, and they're going to be OK," University Hospital spokeswoman Jo Ann Wait said.

The Staff for Life helicopter based in La Monte had taken off yesterday morning when the pilot suspected a problem, said Craig Yale, corporate vice president of Air Methods Corp., which operates the helicopters.

"The aircraft had a problem -- we suspect a mechanical problem -- after taking off from La Monte, and the pilot turned around and returned to the pad." The helicopter "came down hard," he said. Yale couldn't provide more details because the incident still is under investigation.

In addition to the Staff for Life helicopter based in La Monte, University Hospital has a life flight helicopter based in Columbia and another at Lake of the Ozarks Hospital. Each helicopter is staffed with a medic and nurse, both university employees, and a pilot employed by Air Methods.

After the incident, the other two helicopters were temporarily grounded for an assessment of the crew members. "Anytime there's an incident like that, we want to make sure, obviously, that personnel are aware of what's going on and focused on what they're doing," Yale said. "We want to give people a chance to do some crisis debriefing and make sure they're ready to go back into service."

Both helicopters went back into service this morning, Wait said.

The Staff for Life helicopters have been flying since 1982. "We've logged many hours of safe flying and helped hundreds of people," Wait said. "This is a sobering reminder that their work is not without risk."

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