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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Helicopter Crash at Ol' Soldiers' Home!!!

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

For those of you who reside in the Washington, D.C. area, you probably are already watching the still breaking news report on your television sets.

But, for those of you who do not reside in this area, this e-mail is my personal account, plus you can read the (current) official news report, and watch the televised video on your computer monitor.

The station is WUSA-TV Channel 9.

Here is the text of that printed report:

Written By 9 News
Last Updated: 5/30/2006 7:02:06 PM
A medical helicopter crashed Tuesday on its way to Washington Hospital Center with four people on board.

At a press conference Tuesday evening, officials at the hospital said the chopper was transporting a critically ill patient when it crashed in on North Capitol Street in Northwest Washington.

That patient was undergoing surgery Tuesday night and was considered in critical condition, the hospital said.

The chopper's pilot, one of the most experienced in the nation, was in serious but stable condition.
So was a flight nurse and a paramedic who had been aboard.

Rescue crews had to free the pilot from the wreckage, and three passengers from the MedStar helicopter also were being treated for serious injuries, officials said.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the crash less than a mile from the hospital.
It was a sunny day.

It did not appear the helicopter struck any buildings or injured anyone on the ground, FAA officials said.

The chopper crashed on a hilly area of a golf course at the U.S. Soldiers and Airmens Home in the 3700 block of North Capitol Street in northwest Washington.

One witness said he saw the helicopter flying low and heard it hit a tree about 500 yards from the golf course clubhouse.

"It was lumbering," said Billy Bartlett, who works at the golf course.
"You knew something wasn't right."

Bartlett said the helicopter went down on the 8th hole to the right of the fairway.

There were golfers on the course at the time.
Everyone was sent away, and the course was closed.

The crash was reported just after 4:30 p.m.

Washington Hospital Center has had a medevac program since 1983 and its choppers have flown more than 40,000 medical flights without a single accident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Now here is MY version of what I saw and heard:

It was around suppertime, and I was sitting at this computer when I first noticed fire trucks going by, heading down the hill towards our hospital, which is called "King Health Center".

My first impression was that it was probably just another false alarm, i.e., somebody burning popcorn in a microwave.

But, then more and more fire apparatus began arriving, and I knew something MUST be happening, for Fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars just kept screaming by, one right after another, so this, whatever it was, WAS serious.

Then I saw the big yellow truck go by, and I knew it was an aircraft crash.

I used to be a firefighter, and part of my training was aircraft crash rescue.

Anyway, I signed off the computer and started walking down the hill, and then up the hill, to the statue of General Winfield Scott, which overlooks the whole city.

Yep, I could plainly see the helicopter lying on its side, with a cockpit door standing open.

It was under a tree, on our Soldiers'Home golf course, right next to our Soldiers'Home hospital.

Firefighters were covering the blue helicopter with white foam, as I observed several other firefighters carrying a patient in a Stokes basket litter up the hillside into our hospital area.

Next to the crash was another helicopter, with its engine reving up, and it took off, possibly medevacing someone.

Other helicopters circled VERY low overhead, possibly supervisors and investigators.

As I walked back to the mess hall, I met some of my buddies coming towards me, and I explained what I was able to see.

Naturally, there was an element of comedy when one of the residents shouted, "Oh no - - - not the GOLF course!!!

After supper, I watched the local news on three different channels, trying to learn what happened.

The press conference at the hospital said the patient who was being evacuated was very critical and was in surgery.

The pilot, flight nurse, and flight paramedic were all injured, listed in serious, but stable condition, and all were consious and able to communicate.

A little while ago, I wandered down towards the crash site, just to see how close I could get before being turned back.

I didn't get very close, maybe half a block from the crash.

So, I hiked back up to the General Winfield Scott statue, where I could plainly observe everything, as massive portable spotlights were set up, and police cars kept their red and blue lights flashing.

Behind this scene was an excellent view of the United States Capitol, all illuminated.

It was very scenic, and too bad the news reporters weren't smart enough to figure out where the best places were for them to be taking pictures.

The best spot was right where I was standing, right by the statue of General Winfield Scott.

That's where I like to go on nice summer nights (and days) to sit on the grass and play my guitar and sing.

I enjoy the squirrels and birdies keeping me company, and it's a good view of the city, especially the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

Anyway, that's my story.

I reckon I'll conclude with how they taught me to traditionally conclude a news report when I was studying journalism at Westminster College, and that is:


John Robert Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

"My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."


Greybeard said...

Wonder if the patient was critical before the crash, or if the crash caused his/her injuries, John?

I'm lookin' for the accident report to give us an idea why this machine ended up on it's side on a Golf course.

John Robert Mallernee, KB3KWS said...


So far as I know, the cause of the crash is still unknown.

Weather conditions were perfect and the pilot was one of the best in the entire country.

The patient died during surgery, which was no surprise.

The reason for the flight was that the patient was already in extremely critical condition and rapidly failing, so he was being transferred from one hospital to another.

Eyewitnesses on the golf course said the helicopter's engine sounded like it was in trouble.

It's possible the pilot attempted an emergency landing using autorotation (a normal procedure), but hit a tree, which tipped the helicopter on its side.

Thank you for reading and responding to my blog.

John Robert Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."