California

Visalia medevac helicopter crashes near McFarland, killing four

This SkyLife helicopter, seen in an undated photo, was confirmed to have crashed transporting a patient from Porterville to Bakersfield. All four people aboard the aircraft have been reported dead.
This SkyLife helicopter, seen in an undated photo, was confirmed to have crashed transporting a patient from Porterville to Bakersfield. All four people aboard the aircraft have been reported dead. Special to The Bee

Four people are dead after a medical evacuation helicopter based out of Visalia crashed east of McFarland Thursday night, said Dan Lynch, EMS director for Fresno County.

The SkyLife medevac helicopter was transporting a patient in critical condition from Porterville to San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield when it crashed near Highway 65 and Sherwood Avenue, said Lynch, who oversees emergency medical services in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties.

SkyLife Air Ambulance is a partnership between American Ambulance and Rogers Helicopters, and they operate three air ambulance helicopters out of the Fresno and Visalia airports.

Todd Valeri, President and CEO of American Ambulance, said SkyLife has never had a helicopter go down since the partnership was formed in 1991.

At 7:05 p.m., contact was lost with the helicopter, and it wasn’t until 8:35 p.m. that a debris field was located, Lynch said. Kern County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department lost air support due to fog, and rescue personnel couldn’t get to the debris field until 10 p.m.

Once they arrived on the scene of the crash, officials confirmed that all four people were killed.

The people killed were the pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic and the patient.

The names have not been released and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

“Weather conditions are always a factor,” said Todd Valeri, President and CEO of American Ambulance. But Valeri said the cause of the crash is still unknown.

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