Odessa Medical Helo Crash

MyWestTexas.com: MCH helicopter crash claims four lives

An early morning crash of Medical Center Hospital’s CareStar helicopter in Ward County has left four people dead and a fifth injured.

The helicopter – a Bell 407 – was enroute to University Medical Center Hospital in Lubbock from Big Bend Regional Hospital in Alpine. Communication with the helicopter was lost just after 2:00 a.m.

The crash site was located by a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter shortly after 6:00 a.m. near the intersection of FM Highway 1927 and County Road 36 in Ward County.

Reported killed in the crash are pilot Micky Price, 46, of Dumas, Texas; paramedic Paul Lujan, 32, of Odessa, Texas; patient Pedro Urias Modesto, 3 months, and his mother Ana Lillia Urias, both of Mexico.

A fifth occupant, registered nurse Ronald Stephens of Midland, was injured in the crash.

Medical helo crashes are both tragic and seemingly unavoidable. They fly at unscheduled times, over irregular routes, and sometimes in bad weather. The majority are single pilot operations, as cost control is important and helos constantly have to fight with weight and payload issues. Single pilot is a balanced risk: there is no guarantee that a second pilot would prevent any crash, but it seems logical that it would help sometimes.

Crashes like these are why most ED residencies stopped requiring residents to fly as part of the program, and why I always cringe a little when Doc Shazam writes about her latest flight.

Best wishes for Nurse Stephens, and condolences to all those who lost loved ones.

CNN Story.


  1. Adam Springer says:

    Just an update on an older question…they do make camo flight suits now, its just a two piece suit. They have gone away from the pickle suits and moved to these improved aviator bdu’s which are camo, but look more like normal bdu’s. My opinion, as an aviator having to wear them, I want the pickle suit back…hence my search.
    Gun pilot 26

  2. THanks for the concerns, but in reality, the number one item on my list of requirements for my residency was a flight program where the resident is a legitimate, bona-fide member of the flight crew.

    Whether compulsory for the program or not, my only requirement for a residency was that I got to fly on a regular basis. There are very few ER residencies in the country where this is the case…that is, the residents are not just fly-alongs or observers.

    We are registered prehospital healthcare physicians in the state I work in making it legal for us to work in any prehospital capacity. Pretty cool, I think.

    I get to fly again starting April 1st and I can’t wait. Working in the ICU on the top floor of the hospital, I hear the chopper come and go on every trip and have small pangs of envy every time I hear it.

  3. John Schedler says:

    Sad tale. We’ve haqd our own up here (WA state). Airlift NW lost a bird several years ago. In the late 90’s LifeFlight out of Spokane had a main rotor failure in weather.

    The FAA has some stats demonstrating the incidence of loss among air ambulances to be much higher than the norm.

  4. Purely innocent question. Do the ED helicopters make that much of a difference? Yes, yes, I know they save lives, I’ve seen the program on the History Channel.

    Perceptually, it seems the numbers of accidents are increasing Is the cost of highly qualified medical lives worth the risk?

  5. Jim,
    Well, now you’ve done it. Helos actually have never proven themselves to be beneficial in the civilian world. Oh, there are high altitude / high angle rescues that only they can do, but does flying someone from the scene to the hospital really, provably, help? Nope. There are tons of studies that show this.

    This is not to say that when I have my MVA in Fort Stockton, and my choice is an hour by helo or 2.5 by ambulance, I know which I’m picking.

    I have a friend who says, with justification, that IV magnesium and helicopters are the two precious ED tools that we just cannot find a good use for.

  6. “IV magnesium”

    Sounds like a new kind of slap flare…or maybe a 155 illumination round.

  7. just a few words about if its worth the risk these people take…yes..yes..yes…we lost our nephew in this past weekend..but do yall really think it should stop. I f you ask any of the flight crew im sure the answer would be the same…like someone said just because you have a wreck driving your car…does that mean we should stop driving at all???

  8. I would just like to say that I feel like there is a need for medically configured helicopters. Do I think that ground ambulances are needed? yes. I bet you wonder why I said that. Well let me explain. Do some research, I have. I have been a ground medic for almost 17 yrs, and well you are more likely to have a incident or accident on the ground in that ambulance than in the air. I have flown now for 4 years and well I know there are risks. I knew that when I took the job, this is an unforgiving industry. You say that there is no proof that civilian helicopters are benificial. Tell that to any of my patients or their families, bet they will differ in the opinion. If you need a helicopter, it is good to have. I do think that they are over utilized at times but necessary most of the times. My heart goes out to the families of the lost souls. I know that if any of my family needed a helicopter, I would not hesitate to tell them to fly. May God Bless..

  9. I didn’t say helicopters aren’t occasionally the best way to go, or that they aren’t emotionally fulfilling (they are). However, when studies are done which compare apples to apples there is NO survival benefit in civilian applications.

    I was a Paramedic before I went to med school, and I did fixed wind air transport, too, so I know how interesting and fun it can be, but that doesn’t mean that the science behind it is any good.

  10. There is NO survival benifit… If you please sir, would you please pass along where you got your information from? I would like to find that out. I know that there have been times in the past four years that a few of my patients who went direct to cath lab or direct to surgery, that would not have tolerated a 2 hour ground transport. I still do ground work, and well i am not talking of fixed wing, although there are times that going fixed wing will also greatly enhance survival rates. I think you and i will have to agree to disagree. But i would realy like to know where you got your information from.

  11. The first one on the medline search, for starters:

    Safford SD – J Am Coll Surg – 01-DEC-2002; 195(6): 790-5

    A cost and outcomes comparison of a novel integrated pediatric air and ground transportation system.
    BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study is to compare air transportation of critically ill pediatric patients with a mixed air-ground transportation system by evaluating timeliness, safety, and cost. The setting was a tertiary care “hub” center with three outlying-referral “spoke” facilities. STUDY DESIGN: Our study included 96 children transported between June and December 1997, with 45% constituting surgical admissions and 55% medical admissions. Data collected at the outlying facilities, en route, and at our institution included vital signs, laboratory values, and Glasgow coma scores. We evaluated transport time, transport cost, Pediatric Risk of Mortality scores, and Pediatric Index of Mortality of the children during transportation using ANOVA statistical analysis. We also compared adverse events in transportation, total hospital length of stay, and mortality at 24 and 72 hours in both the air and ground transport groups to determine differences in predicted and observed mortality. RESULTS: A total of 96 children were transported (48% by ground and 52% by air) between June and December 1997. The time at the referring facility was significantly shorter in the ground group than in the air group (air, 55.4 minutes versus ground, 36.7 minutes, p < 0.01). Total transport time differed by only 27 minutes between groups. No difference was identified in morbidity or mortality between air and ground groups. Actual mortality was not significantly different from predicted mortality in either group. The cost of ground transportation was significantly lower (air, $4,236 versus ground, $1,566). When our system of a combined air and ground group transport system is compared with a hypothetical 100% air transport system, we saved an average of more than $240,000 annually. CONCLUSIONS: We have demonstrated that a “hub-and-spoke” ground transportation system supplements air transportation in a safe, timely, and cost-effective manner.

    Again, I’m not saying that in a few cases it doesn’t help, it does. But, when apples (morbidity and mortality) are compared, Helos aren’t better. They aren’t worse, either, just not the best thing since sliced bread they’re touted as being.

  12. Thank you for the information. I think like we do agree on some points. I would like to read the other information you have just as referance. Thank you. and well I see your point and i think you see mine. Take care and God Bless


  1. GruntDoc: Odessa Medical Helo Crash

    GruntDoc blinks the most recent medical aviation crash. This one hit the critical care mailing list Sunday morning, but we didn’t talk about it much. We didn’t have to; most of us are attached to services that have lost people…