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Report: Medical Chopper Was Low on Fuel Before Missouri Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A medical helicopter pilot had reported being lower on fuel than he realized before the aircraft went down last month in a field northeast of Kansas City, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Four people died in the Aug. 26 crash of the Eurocopter AS-350, owned by Colorado-based Air Methods Corp. and flown by its subsidiary, LifeNet Air Medical Services.

The report, released Tuesday, said the pilot reported having two hours of fuel when he left from St. Joseph to retrieve a patient in the Harrison County town of Bethany, near the Iowa border. But while the chopper was shut down on the pad at the Bethany hospital, the pilot reported he had less fuel than he originally thought.

About a minute after takeoff, the pilot told his company's communication center he had 45 minutes of fuel and was headed to Midwest National Air Center to refuel. The pilot asked the communication center to contact the center to let them know the chopper was coming. From there, the crew planned to head to Liberty Hospital in suburban Kansas City to drop off the patient.

But the chopper crashed about 30 minutes after takeoff.

Already last week, the husband of Terry Tacoronte, the 58-year-old patient who was killed, filed a lawsuit against the helicopter operator, saying the company took an unnecessary risk by flying with low fuel. Pilot James Freudenbert, 34, of Rapid City, S.D., 47-year-old flight nurse Randy Bever from Savannah, Mo., and Chris Frakes, 36, a flight paramedic from Savannah, also died in the crash.

Medical helicopters rarely run on a full fuel tank because of weight issues associated with the aircraft and on-board equipment. Kansas City attorney Gary C. Robb has said previously that the pilot wasn't to blame because he was following corporate policy.

A message that The Associated Press left after hours Wednesday for Aaron Todd, chief executive of Air Methods, wasn't immediately returned.


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