Aero Med returns to Butterworth rooftop

November 14, 2008
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Spectrum Health today announced that its helicopter ambulance service, Aero Med, will begin practice runs Monday following reconstruction of its helistop atop Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

No date has been set for Aero Med to deliver patients to the Butterworth helistop, rebuilt following the May 29 helicopter crash during a training run which injured two men.

A communication tower on the Butterworth roof has been replaced with a new one on top of the Frederik and Lena Meijer Heart Center, and the one is expected to be dismantled over the weekend, Spectrum Health spokesman Bruce Rossman said.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report stated that the Sikorsky S-76A helicopter’s tail rotor apparently struck an object on a radio tower on top of the elevator structure. The rotor disintegrated, the pilot was unable to control the aircraft, which then crashed and burned.

Some $1.5 million in modifications, performed by FEC Helisports of Cincinnati, Ohio, include:

  • Installation of a platform raised several feet above and overhanging the roof, providing two 60- by 60-foot landing areas. Raising the platform allows wind to flow underneath and reduces turbulence. The platform is ringed with several feet of horizontal aluminum safety netting.

  • Addition of metal stairways leading to the floor below for emergency exit. The pilot and Federal Aviation Administration official injured in the May accident were forced to seek refuge from the fire behind a heating duct.

  • A fuel-water separator tank for each landing zone to capture liquid and prevent fuel from entering storm drains.

  • Upgrades to the fire suppression system.

“Our rooftop helistop is a key element in providing quick access to trauma care and other critical care service. We look forward to returning to this helistop,” said Dr. Ralph Rogers, Aero Med medical director.

Aero Med has been using a landing area near Plymouth Road and Michigan Street NE and transporting patients the rest of the way by ambulance.

The training and return to service are dependent on the weather.

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