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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 04:49 pm

No injuries in helicopter mishap

Grate on landing pad blamed

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a stricken helicopter on top of Memorial Medical Center!

Believe it.

The Bell helicopter operated by  OSF Aviation was landing on the hospital’s helipad about 11 p.m. last Thursday when a wheel broke through a grate, sending the helicopter spinning about 80 degrees, said Brent Grady, executive director of OSF Aviation based in Peoria.

“We’re not sure what that grate was for – we have no idea why it was there,” Grady said. “It kind of dropped the aircraft wheel into that hole. We’re very fortunate that when it (the helicopter) spun, none of the blades hit anything.”

Michael Leathers, Memorial spokesman, said he had no details on the mishap or what caused it. The pilot and two nurses who were aboard to pick up a patient walked away with no injuries, Grady said.

After the manufacturer recommended a thorough inspection, a crane was brought in to pluck the chopper from the hospital roof on Sunday morning. It was trucked to Peoria, with no visible damage, but the company is taking no chances and will inspect the airframe to ensure that it is in sound condition, Grady said.

“We just don’t expect to have a grate open up,” Grady said.

Springfield firefighters helped lower the chopper to the ground on Sunday, tying rescue ropes that are kept in case of a mishap on city power plant smokestacks to the helicopter to ensure that it did not sway and strike the hospital as the crane did its work.

“We just wanted to help them out,” said fire chief Ken Fustin, adding that the hospital’s emergency services department has helped his crews in the past. “We thought it would be a good time for us to return the favor.”
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