NTSB Plans Public Hearing On Helicopter EMS

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The NTSB will hear from the full spectrum of personnel involved in emergency medical services using helicopters at a three-day public hearing planned for its headquarters in Washington Feb 3-9. In 2006, the NTSB issued a special investigation report that found that more than half of all EMS accidents (41 helicopter and 14 airplane) in the previous three years could have been prevented if the recommendations in the report had been followed. There have been nine fatal accidents involving EMS helicopters in the past 11 months and 35 people have died. "This is a drastic increase in accidents since the Special Investigation Report and therefore has prompted the Safety Board to examine this issue in greater detail by holding this hearing," the board said in a statement.

The statement said the public hearing is aimed at educating the board on the operational challenges of EMS services and helping members figure out how to stem the rising tide of accidents. "We have seen an alarming rise in the numbers of EMS accidents and the Safety Board believes some of these accidents could have been prevented if our recommendations were implemented," says member Robert Sumwalt, who will chair the hearing. "This hearing will be extremely important because it can provide an opportunity to learn more about the industry so that possibly we can make further recommendations that can prevent these accidents and save lives." The proceedings will be webcast live.