Mystery Shrouds Deadly Hospital Wing Crash

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(Memphis) When the most serious of crashes, accidents and trauma happens, Hospital Wing is there to respond.

However, six months after a deadly crash killed three people, the investigation is at a standstill.

On Your Side Investigator Stephanie Scurlock dug through the FAA report and learned nobody knows what caused the deadly crash and what's worse, people fear we never will.

Bill Conway, CEO of Hospital Wing, lost three "angels in the sky" when Wing 3 crashed and burned in a field in Fayette County.

He hopes investigators are able to figure out what caused the crash killing pilot Charlie Smith, nurse Carrie Barlow and respiratory therapist Denise Adams.

"The NTSB has not finished their formal investigation so we really haven't found out anything," said Conway.

There are indications we may never know what caused the crash last October.

WREG reviewed notes from FAA inspectors who investigated the crash site, crew medical records and maintenance logs.

According to the report, the determination was "the facts and evidence doesn't support a clear cause for this accident."

This means it's still a mystery, which leaves family members like Carrie Barlow's parents, Jackie and Kay Moore unsure of who or what is to blame.

"Her husband went down and they were saying pilot error but really we don't know. We have not heard anything. We would really like to know," Kay Moore told WREG.

WREG also talked to the wife of pilot, Charlie Smith.

Chi Smith said, "In my heart, there's something wrong with the helicopter in my heart. It's got to be something with the helicopter. He's such an experienced pilot and he cared about his crew and he paid attention to details so I know there's got to be something wrong with that helicopter."

Chi Smith and her children joined Barlow's parents at a recent memorial to honor those on board Wing 3.

Smith was a retired Memphis police department pilot with more than 3,200 hours of flight time under his belt.

"He loved flying. Flying was his love. He loved helping people and when he came over to Hospital Wing he wanted to help people," said Smith.

Last year's crash was the second in three years.

The FAA ruled weather played a role in the 2010 crash that killed three other members of the Hospital Wing crew.

WREG asked how often aircraft are inspected. Conway told us they're inspected a minimum of twice a day.

Hospital Wing records seem to back them up.

WREG reviewed federal inspection logs from 2010 to the present and found no major violations, not even on the day of the October crash.

However, here is something that does stand out: records show the pilot refused a flight earlier on his shift, but took the flight to Bolivar.

Conway said the decisions were based on weather changes.

Conway said, "We train for the worst case scenario but a lot of good piloting is good decision making."

When Smith's body was found he was still wearing night vision goggles which would have been essential because it was still dark when the chopper crashed.

"We can't point to weather. As you know, we can't point to anything. We all want to. That's human nature to find fault or to find a reason. We want that so we can correct that. But I reference the Malaysian airbus or Malaysian Boeing of late, nobody really knows and that's kind of where we are too," said Conway.

The lack of a cause isn't stopping Conway from implementing changes.

"Something happened and something's got to change. What we'd like to say is we're doing a bottom up review. We're taking the industry standards and doing an outside look at much as we can with consultants," said Conway.

Conway believes his single engine Eurocopter aircraft are among the safest in the industry.

He says his pilots are among the best trained in the business. It's a business he believes is essential and worth the risks.

"We are a community asset more than people know. There's a lot of good stories that happen here at Hospital Wing and unfortunately the WING 3 accident here in October shined a negative light and it shouldn't have. We do a lot more than just have accidents," said Conway.

The proof he says is in the flight log. His "angels" flew more than 2,000 patients in the mid south to get the critical care they needed.

Last year, there were nine helicopter emergency accidents nationwide. Five were fatal accidents that killed a total of 12 people. Three of those were from Hospital Wing.


  • Michael Jones

    This was very well reported but…. though it is true that it was the second accident in three years you failed to mention the more than two decades that they were accident free. The facts are great, all the facts are better.
    It is a dangerous industry and the men and women that do this are selfless and dedicated. They dont do it for the thrill nor the money, they do it for you and your lovedones.

  • Karen mayo

    I would like to start by saying he was a very well trained pilot. He did several fights for the police department and the wing. Do not think people should make any comments like “pilot error”. That is all hear say….Nobody will ever know what happened on that flight. One day when we meet our angels we will then know what happened until then keep praying…

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