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Medical Helicopter Crashes in Tennessee, Crew of Three Killed

UPDATE: 2:24 p.m. EST

Two hospital workers and a pilot were killed when a medical helicopter crashed in Tennessee as the aircraft was headed to pick up an ailing child.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital President and CEO Meri Armour says the Hospital Wing helicopter was cleared for both weather and flight plans when it took off Tuesday morning.

Armour said that the pilot and crew were experienced, and that they had a great helicopter.

Authorities began searching for the helicopter when it didn't respond during a routine check-in around 6:20 a.m.

Emergency officials found the helicopter's remains in a wooded section of Somervile, about 45 miles east of Memphis.

In a news release, the hospital identified those killed as 47-year-old pilot Charles Smith, 43-year-old nurse Carrie Barlow and 43-year-old respiratory therapist Denise Adams.

EARLIER:

SOMERVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two hospital workers were killed early Tuesday when a medical helicopter crashed and burned in Tennessee as the aircraft was headed to pick up an ailing child, officials said.

Three people were aboard the Hospital Wing helicopter that left Memphis and was headed to Bolivar (BAW'-luh-vuhr) to pick up the child, said Meri Armour, the president and CEO of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. The two people killed were a nurse and respiratory therapist, Armour said.

There was no immediate word on the condition of the pilot. The child was not on board the aircraft and was eventually taken by ground ambulance to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Armour said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email that her agency and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

"All we know is that when the helicopter took off it was cleared from both weather and flight plans," Armour said in a phone interview.

The helicopter didn't respond during a routine 10-minute check in, she said. Authorities searched by air and ground in finding the burning wreckage.

"This was a very experienced pilot and a very experienced crew and a great helicopter, so we're all anxious to know what happened," Armour said.

She estimated that the aircraft was about a half hour into the flight when it went down.

The names of the victims were not immediately released. Family members went to the hospital to be briefed about the tragedy.

"It's a pretty emotional scene right now for them," Armour said.

Another Hospital Wing helicopter crashed in West Tennessee in March 2010 when the pilot tried to outrun a storm. That crash killed the pilot and two nurses.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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